Tag Archives: Orioles

A Tale of Two Cities in Four Days Following a Black and Orange Bird

I have been a baseball fan for a long time but last Thursday I did something that I hadn’t done in three decades of fandom and also did a few things that I had never done before.

As mentioned before the first Major League Baseball game I ever attended was a Baltimore Orioles home game at Memorial Stadium in 1983.

Since then I have seen numerous Orioles Spring Training games over the years in ballparks all across Florida.  But for 30 years I had not seen the Orioles play in a game that counted in the regular season standings. I had also never seen them play in a regular season game outside of Charm City.

The Baltimore Orioles came to Minute Maid Park and a 30-year drought was ended. Photo R. Anderson

The Baltimore Orioles came to Minute Maid Park and a 30-year drought was ended.
Photo R. Anderson

When this year’s MLB schedule was released and I saw that the Orioles were coming to Houston to play the Astros, it was a no brainer that I would circle one of those games on my must watch list for the season.

That lucky three decade drought ending game was Thursday afternoon at Minute Maid Park. Of course, I did not just end the 30 year drought with one game in one city.

No, no. I went one step further in true go big or go home fashion and saw the Orioles in St. Petersburg, FL as well when they wrapped up a series with the Tampa Bay Rays.

So in the course of four days I ended a 30-year drought with not one, but two, games in two different cities in two different states.

So let us compare and contrast the two ballpark experiences starting first with the Orioles and their visit to Minute Maid Park.

Four days after seeing the Orioles in Houston it was time to travel south and see them in Florida but unlike previous times watching the team in Florida this game counted. Photo R. Anderson

Four days after seeing the Orioles in Houston it was time to travel south and see them in Florida but unlike previous times watching the team in Florida this game counted.
Photo R. Anderson

Selecting a day game to see the Orioles was an easy choice to make as I try to attend one day game a season. Thursday was this year’s selection for that honor.

I enjoy day games for multiple reasons, but two in particular rise above the others. The first reason of course is that it just seems down right fun to be sitting at a ballpark watching a game while the majority of the world is working.

The second thing that makes day games so much fun is that they have smaller crowds on average (see reason one as a probable cause) which tends to mean better odds to catch a ball during batting practice.

For the past three years I have caught a ball at all of the day games I have attended. So it was that experience that had me feeling fairly confident that my luck would continue this year when I went to see the Orioles visit the Astros.

I arrived at the gate shortly after it opened and made it to my seat in front of the short right field porch. Sadly when I surveyed the field I noticed that batting practice was not going on.

At first I thought that it was just starting later than usual but then I realized that none of the tell tale signs of batting practice were on the field. I would not get to continue my streak of catching batting practice balls. I know I can always add another day game later in the season but I thought that it would have been nice to catch a ball from one of the Orioles.

The game itself was nice once the disappointment of no batting practice subsided. The Orioles ended up with the victory and although I did not go home with a ball I could be consoled by the fact that I saw a victory by the first team I ever rooted for.

The Ted Williams Museum inside Tropicana Field is well worth checking out. Photo R. Anderson.

The Ted Williams Museum inside Tropicana Field is well worth checking out.
Photo R. Anderson.

My Orioles karma continued Sunday at Tropicana Field, as did my string of missing out on batting practice.

As was the case earlier in the week the Orioles were victorious although the Rays definitely went down swinging.

In both instances I was conflicted somewhat regarding who to root for since all three teams are in my stable of teams that I follow.

But in most case during head to head match ups I will tend to pull for the Orioles. So in that sense I saw two Orioles victories in four days and was happy.

Tropicana Field is also home to a Ted Williams museum which is a must stop for any visitor to the ballpark. Admission to the museum is included as part of admission to the game and allows fans to see various artifacts from both Ted Williams as well as artifacts from the earliest Rays season.

Now if you’ll excuse me I need to think of some other long droughts to end while I am one such a roll.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

The Stands are Alive with the Sound of Music

Odds are if you have spent any amount of time in a Major League Baseball Ballpark you have been exposed to “Stadium Rock” of one form or another.

From the live organ playing during the golden age of baseball, to the clap, clap stomp of “We will rock you” fans have been exposed to music that helps paint the atmosphere and heighten the fan experience for almost as long as there has been a fan experience.

While music is used throughout the game, perhaps no other time allows the music to shine quite like the middle of the seventh inning.

No matter the ballpark, or level of competition, fans know that once the middle of the seventh inning rolls around fans will be on their feet and singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

Also, if the game is being played on a Sunday most Ballparks will feature the playing of “God Bless America” in the eighth inning as well.

The Boston Red Sox invaded Minute Maid Park for a three-game series back in 2011 and the visiting fans were treated to a little Neil Diamond music to feel right at home. Photo R. Anderson

The Boston Red Sox invaded Minute Maid Park for a three-game series back in 2011 and the visiting fans were treated to a little Neil Diamond music to feel right at home.
Photo R. Anderson

While some seventh and eighth inning songs are universal, there are some local varieties that while known in the home ballparks may not be as well known to the wider audience.

One such local tradition recently gained a wider audience following the Boston Marathon attack when teams across the country played a certain bit of Boston Red Sox tradition in their own stadiums as a show of support and solidarity.  The New York Yankees, bitter division rival of the Red Sox, were the first team to offer a melodic show of solidarity for the people of Boston and many other teams soon followed.

This bit of Fenway flavor that went wicked viral was of course the Neil Diamond classic, “Sweet Caroline” which has been a ballpark staple for the Red Sox Nation for years.

While I will admit to occasionally rocking out to Neil Diamond in the privacy of the Triple B Gigaplex (I mean seriously, who hasn’t?), I can honestly say that the idea of rocking out to his songs in a ballpark never occurred to me until I attended a Houston Astros game a few years back when they were hosting the Red Sox.

I can’t remember at which point in the game the song rolled out but I remember thinking it was odd that the song was being played during a baseball game.

My confusion was soon answered when I overheard a Sox fan behind me explaining that it was a Fenway tradition. Based on the reaction from the people with the letter B on their heads they thought that it was cool that they were playing it in Texas.  Despite the explanation I still found it odd that the visiting team’s rally song was being played by the Astros.

Rangers fans at the Ballpark in Arlington welcome the seventh inning with the arrival of Cotton-Eyed Joe. Photo R. Anderson

Rangers fans at the Ballpark in Arlington welcome the seventh inning with the arrival of Cotton-Eyed Joe.
Photo R. Anderson

To be clear, I think that the current show of support by other teams playing the song is perfectly acceptable as long as it is done for a finite length of time.

What is not acceptable is if the song continues to be played for the foreseeable future every time the Red Sox are in town. Even the most heartfelt of tributes can overstay its welcome.

I mean, nothing against Neil Diamond, but “Sweet Caroline” does not belong in other ballparks regardless of how sing along worthy it is.  Like Bill Murray said in the cinematic classic “What About Bob?”, there are two types of people in this world, those who like Neil Diamond, and those who don’t.

Another reason why the spread of “Sweet Caroline” needs to be nipped in the bud is that many teams already have traditional songs of their own that are worth preserving.

In Houston the stars really are big and bright as the seventh inning stretch includes the state pride evoking staple “Deep in the Heart of Texas” following “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” The song even travels with the team to Florida for Spring Training.

Although, standing and clapping along to “Deep in the Heart of Texas” while deep in the heart of Florida does tend to mess with one’s head.

For over 30 years the Oriole Bird has been thankful to be a country boy, err bird and has been dugout dancing during the seventh inning with one lucky fan. Photo R. Anderson

For over 30 years the Oriole Bird has been thankful to be a country boy, err bird and has been dugout dancing during the seventh inning with one lucky fan.
Photo R. Anderson

For over 30 years the Baltimore Orioles’ seventh inning stretch has included John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” complete with a top of the dugout dance between the Oriole mascot and one lucky fan. And this tradition also travels to the Spring Training Stadium in Sarasota.

And although Texas is a large state, apparently only one team can be deep in the heart of it as the Texas Rangers, who were the second team to come to Texas, have “Cotton-Eyed Joe” as their seventh inning stretch song.

The list goes on and on regarding teams and their signature songs in the ballpark. From the Cincinnati Reds encouraging fans to “Twist and Shout” along with the Beatles, to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim playing “Build Me up Buttercup,” each team has put their own unique stamp on the seventh inning.

Perhaps the oddest seventh inning stretch song I found in my research was the choice of the Washington Nationals. Starting in the 2012 season, the Nationals embraced the A-ha classic “Take on Me” as their seventh inning jam.

For those old enough to remember when MTV played music videos, “Take on Me” was the really trippy video that was half newspaper comic and half real life.

At the time it was released it represented the cutting edge of video technology but I am sure it shows a little bit of its age when viewed now. Of course, it is out on You Tube if one really wants to get their A-ha on.

So there you have it, a selection of songs to listen for as you travel the Major League Baseball stadium trail for both the Neil Diamond lover and the Neil Diamond hater.

Now if you’ll excuse I think it is time to fill the Triple B Gigaplex with some tunes. Where did I put that Neil Diamond CD?

Copyright 2013 R Anderson

Stable Stability is a Tricky Thing to Balance

Early last year I decided to add an additional team to my stable of baseball teams that I follow.

The addition of a new team into the stable is not something that is taken lightly and a variety of factors are involved in the process in order for a team to be determined worthy.

At the time of the decision to expand, my stable included the Baltimore Orioles (added in 1980), the Tampa Bay Rays (added in 1998), the Houston Astros (added in 2000), and the Washington Nationals (added in 2005). Each of the teams represented areas where I had either previously lived or had a history with following.

While the logo has changed, thirty three years later the Bird is still the word and the Baltimore Orioles still are the longest tenured team in the Stable of teams I follow. Photo R. Anderson

While the logo has changed, thirty three years later the Bird is still the word and the Baltimore Orioles still are the longest tenured team in the Stable of teams I follow.
Photo R. Anderson

I still follow the Atlanta Braves and Florida (Miami) Marlins for sentimental reasons but they were considered on the outside of the core four teams.

Despite their two World Series titles, and the history of me following them since their first year in 1993, the Marlins fell from prime stable positioning a few years ago after years of inept decisions by ownership that led to repeatedly fielding a non-competitive team.

That is not to say that winning is everything, I just want to know that ownership is making an effort to field a competitive ball club year after year. Astros you have been put on notice as well.

As I mentioned, one of the criteria for selecting a team to admit into the stable is historical attachment to the team through living or traveling frequently to their home base.

While once Devilish, The Tampa Bay Rays are the second longest tenured team in my stable of baseball teams. Photo R. Anderson

While once Devilish, The Tampa Bay Rays are the second longest tenured team in my stable of baseball teams.
Photo R. Anderson

Over the past few years I have traveled extensively in and around the Dallas area; including Arlington and Frisco. For those who may not be familiar with those areas they are home to the Texas Rangers and the Frisco Rough Riders, the Rangers’ AA affiliate.

During many of my trips north I would find myself at one of the two ballparks, or watching games in the hotel during downtime.

As the trips grew more frequent, so did the exposure to the Rangers to the point that I started watching Rangers games back home in Houston when the Astros were not on.

So, after careful consideration I decided that, while I consider certain Rangers’ fans to be some of the rudest people I have ever encountered in a ballpark, the Rangers had many pros that made them worthy of stable inclusion.

A new century, and a new team. The Houston Astros joined the stable in 2000. Photo R. Anderon

A new century, and a new team. The Houston Astros joined the stable in 2000.
Photo R. Anderon

The pros included proximity, Nolan Ryan, and Josh Hamilton. It was also decided that with the Astros in the National League and the Rangers in the American League I could easily follow both teams in the same way that I followed the Nationals and the Orioles since they were in the National and American Leagues respectively.

So, in 2012 the Rangers were officially added to my stable. While there was not an official ceremony or military flyover the day was marked with the purchase of a Rangers hat and t-shirt during one of my trips up to Frisco.

Shortly after the stable inclusion, one by one the carefully met criteria that allowed the Rangers in began to crumble.

The Washington Nationals joined the stable once they were exported from Montreal in 2005. Photo R. Anderson

The Washington Nationals joined the stable once they were exported from Montreal in 2005.
Photo R. Anderson

It was announced that not only would the Astros be moving to the American League, they would be moving into the same division as the Rangers. This meant they would face each other repeatedly in head to head battles beyond the yearly Lone Star interleague series.

I already had the Orioles and the Rays in the same division and the heartburn that gives me each year on who to pull for more when it comes to playoff time often has me reaching for the Pepcid.

I quickly came to terms with the fact that most analysts believe it will be years, if not decades, before the Astros are competing for the playoffs in the American League so I will have time to build up a plan for which team to root for more when the pennant races roll around.

The next obstacle to overcome for the Rangers to remain in my stable was the loss of Josh Hamilton to the Angels during free agency.

While I know that players come and go with great frequency, it really seemed like Josh Hamilton was one of the faces of the franchise for years to come and was one of the good guys that one wanted to see succeed based on the personal demons that he had overcome.

Ok, so no Josh Hamilton, no problem. At least they still had Nolan Ryan who by many accounts is the epitome of Texas baseball and has a museum just down the road from Houston.

While the Frisco Rough Riders were already in the Minor League stable their big brother joined the stable in 2012. Photo R. Anderson

While the Frisco Rough Riders were already in the Minor League stable their big brother joined the stable in 2012.
Photo R. Anderson

Then a few weeks back it was announced that Nolan Ryan may be leaving the team that he helped purchase a few years back.

While I would hate to see him go I know that Nolan Ryan will land on his feet if his tenure with the Rangers does end.  Nolan’s loss alone, like that of Josh Hamilton, would not be reason enough to rescind the Rangers’ membership in my exclusive stable of teams to follow.

So, the Rangers become the fifth team in my stable with their place firmly entrenched. Of course whenever they play the Orioles, Rays or Astros they will not be the team that I root for the most. I mean tenure in the stable has to count for something.

Of course if they end up playing the Nationals in interleague play that creates another interesting dilemma since the Rangers were once the Washington Senators before leaving for the suburbs of Dallas in 1972. I guess who to pull for in that pairing of D.C. past and D.C. present will be another decision for another day.

This brings us to this Sunday and the start of the 2013 Major League Baseball season.  The Rangers and the Astros will face off in a nationally televised game to kick the season off.

I am sure there will be a sellout crowd at the game. If past games between the two are to be any indication, the mix at Minute Maid Park will be about 60 percent Rangers fans, 30 percent Astros fans and 10 percent Texans fans (Seriously, the number of people who wear football jerseys to baseball games amazes me).

I haven’t decided for sure which jersey I will sport at the game. I am leaning towards the Astros even though I am fairly confident that the Rangers will prevail.

Now if you’ll excuse me I need to review another stable application that just came across the Triple B news desk. After all, if realignment has taught me anything it is that even numbered divisions are much easier to manage than odd ones.

Copyright 2013 R Anderson