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Orioles Bird

It’s been 18 years since local communication and public relations guru Greg Abel created the “We’re Not Gonna Take It” video after Nestor Aparicio led “Free The Birds” to communicate some uncomfortable truths to Peter Angelos. That was September 2006. Now, with David Rubenstein taking over the helm of the Orioles franchise, what do we expect to be better for the fans – other than everything?

Here is the original “Free The Birds” video that is referenced throughout this Weis conversation.

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

people, baltimore, orioles, birds, talked, years, franchise, fans, greg, walked, give, good, nestor, money, communications, game, work, video, love, players

SPEAKERS

Greg Abel, Nestor J. Aparicio

Nestor J. Aparicio  00:01

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Welcome home we are wn S T, and 5070 tasks in Baltimore and Baltimore positive. We are taking the Maryland crabcakes we’re out on the road. We’re yelling about it with our friends at the Maryland lottery we’re gonna have some great guests. I’m working things up on the peninsula and my homeland to kick things often cost this on the ninth the Baltimore Orioles. The under new management Baltimore Orioles are taking on the Boston Red Sox to probably Frigidly freeze at Fenway Park. On Tuesday, the ninth on Friday the 12. Rumors come to town without Corbin burns. And we’re going to be doing a fate lease from two until five live nasty, we don’t live anymore. I’m live two to five and fatally. So it’s all brought to you by the Maryland lottery each and every Friday that the Orioles are home. Luke’s gonna join me from two of the three. And then from three of the five, we’re going to have guests who are probably going to show up late because of traffic, I’m probably going to have to go to the bathroom but I’m gonna have a great crab cake, ice cold beer, and all real baseball. So we’ll be doing that and we’re at Coco’s on the 18th. And we’re going to be back at fade these on the 26th. So there’s the Maryland crab cake tour for the month of April all brought to you by the Maryland lottery and liberty pure solutions. I’m really looking forward to this piece and this is a guy that I’m going to you know we’re going to do 2030 minutes here and hanging out but he’s a guy that should be having crab cakes with me. I sort of the original Baltimore positive dude, who I met through free the birds, because because on the other side of free the birds, he was the documentarian and part of this is that I’m doing a 25th anniversary documentary. It’s coming out in a couple of weeks. Big shout out to Greg Landrieu for Blue Rock productions and Townsend transfers. My life for Powell who’s helped me with this crazy project as well as all my crazy narrators like Gina shock and John Allen and Mike Brill heart and Mickey Coachella and keep thrower and I know I just left somebody out. Oh Ray Bachman How can I leave him out? This guy here did a video the day after free. The birds that WBA out into WJC didn’t do was very, very, very early part of this thing called tube, which I thought was spelled you tee up but it turned out it’s you like my friend Mark burtynsky is You Matter movement. We welcome like one of defending champions of all things Baltimore, Greg Abel back onto the program. It’s been a long long time. I know we’ve meandered I follow you, you know, there were times where I you know, it was a little too dirty around the Orioles to be fumigated from the social media communications world. But I’m still here. And you’re still here in the video still exists right out there. Twisted Sister. We’re not gonna get good, right?

Greg Abel  02:46

Yeah, well, I got that got taken down and put back up for some reason. But yeah, it’s pretty the birds. First of all, thank you for having me, Nestor. It’s a pleasure to be with you. I’ve enjoyed watching what you’ve created with that, you know, Baltimore positive and all the new initiatives you’re doing and kind of evolving with the times social media with video with, you know, we all do what we do. But then you know, the way the world works, changes, and we adapt with it. And you’ve done that, and it’s been interesting to watch. So congratulations on that. And I think free the birds just to talk about that for a moment was such a moment. And it was sort of a clandestine moment for some because obviously the oil didn’t want to talk about a couple 1000 fans walking out in the fourth inning of a game. It’s in September, during yet another losing season. And for those who might need a refresher, Nesta organized a walk out of the game among fans who are fed up with the direction that franchise was headed. And I was one of the people who showed up. And just because I’m wired this way, I’ve been running a public relations firm for 15 years. I come from journalism and PR. I brought a camcorder not an iPhone, my view but a camcorder and

Nestor J. Aparicio  03:59

batteries. What you’re telling me it didn’t it didn’t have tape did it?

Greg Abel  04:04

mini DV tape.

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Nestor J. Aparicio  04:07

That wasn’t digital. Was it a hard drive? No. literally pull tape out and and we were still in that era. Wow. Okay,

Greg Abel  04:15

mini DV. You remember that? Yeah.

Nestor J. Aparicio  04:19

Greg Landrieu will know believe me he’s got all those formats over there. And

Greg Abel  04:23

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I have it in a bag here somewhere labeled free the birds I could give you the raw if you really wanted it.

Nestor J. Aparicio  04:29

And so I would post that in a heartbeat brother I would I got for you the birds Greg Abel. I have you know,

Greg Abel  04:35

I mean, it’s one of your signature moments. And so I love being a part of it because I’ve been an Oreo fan my whole life and everybody was upset at what was going on. And here was this community and media personality saying you know, we’ve we’ve had it let’s walk out and you know, in the movie version of this Nestor, all the other fans would have gotten up and walked out with us, right. There are a few other stouts and fans out there but we’ve marched out And it was a moment and I was happy to be part of it. And I still think it’s one of the things that you can look back on your career as defining as someone who wasn’t willing to take it at a time when that needed to be said,

Nestor J. Aparicio  05:13

Well, I’m gonna try to get Dee Snider on because they’re playing and three. I’ll see if John Allen or somebody at the M three at Merriweather Jean, or somebody can arrange that because I would. I interviewed him a long, long time ago. But can you give me the inspiration for making the movie because I had a few people come up to me in the end, when it was the day after including the Bashar at Steve Ashad. He cornered me on the field and Owings Mills, and said that was really tastefully done. You sent the message. Like that’s literally what he said to me. Last week, he walked off a veranda running for me with Eric the costume. It’s a strange and he hasn’t been seen. He doesn’t have a you know, the media doesn’t be with the meat like all of that since Ray Rice. And these franchises right are worth five $7 billion. The football side, the baseball franchise sold for 1.7 billion. And I honestly started to do the math on this because when I wrote the Peter principles, I didn’t happen. But six, seven years after free the birds, but 12 1314 I was writing this book. And a lot of people talk to me. I mean, everybody talked to me, and they told me everything that there was to know about money, Peter put a lot of money into the team. Like when we did the walk out on him. He was a good 75 million upside down into putting money into Jeff conine, David Segi, like money that the franchise was not throwing off pre mass and right. So there’s a lot of things I learned as a journalist, that it wouldn’t have given me pause for him to not pay his bill with me in 2004. And like John’s involvement in the crazy thing with the bird soaking and like, just, they did awful stuff to me and my company, and just like, really, they did awful stuff. But I’ll say this, that free the birds thing that you remember, as everybody would have gotten up and walked out? Yeah, the moment that that happened, we came down the back way. And I don’t know if you were planning on making a video or not like you took your camcorder. I don’t know what possessed you to stay up all night taking DV tape and mixing down. It was like, I don’t want to hear that because I don’t really No, but I’m telling you, I think one of the reasons it really made real headlines because we were up in the upper deck chanting and have we had a good time.

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Greg Abel  07:36

Like, yeah, we were all thinking to ourselves, Well, this is what it should feel like editorial gaming around other real fans, and you’re cheering and you’re shout and then you’re feeling it. And you’re excited, because you’re building up to a moment. And you also wanted the oil to do well. I mean, none of us who walked out that day were doing it because we didn’t love the Orioles. We did it because we did and do love the Orioles and what they mean, and I’ll tell you us Why’d you do that. I mean, I come from journalism like you. I mean, my first jobs were as a sports editor of a weekly paper, I was a reporter at the Baltimore Business Journal before I got into sports marketing and public relations. And so I’ve just wired that way Nestor, maybe like, you know, I go to an event, I go to a family event and I bust out the camera, I start interviewing my family and then half hour later and then send a funny like, recap of, you know, my nephew’s birthday party just because it’s just what I like doing. And so, that day, I was like, I’m gonna document this because I didn’t think I’m taking the plates of channel 11 or 13 or two or 45 I just felt to myself like I wanted this. And I had played around at that time I was doing some freelance video production work so I knew how to cut video for lack of a better words, you had to take you know, that camera plugged into the computer. I had a Mac at home, you know, use fine. I didn’t use Final Cut. I used iMovie. But you could splice in music and do all the things fired

Nestor J. Aparicio  09:03

me Can I just tell you that because when you did that video, about eight months later, a neighbor of mine was in law school brought me an Apple computer, a little apple computer, and she said dude, this is going to help you move into the new era. And it’s when I really created wn St. dotnet in the aftermath of all of that, and all the free the birds information came at me on the web. The web was an awful awful place in 2000 234 or five for someone like me on radio and the Baltimore Sun message boards and lies and just junk just awful. My wife is a target just awful stuff happened. But the internet awakened me and I became an iMovie HD. I mean, I went to school for corporate communication. I was a I was a runner for scars. So at channel two, I’m gonna have that in the documentary that I eat. I did six months to channel two with Jim hauls and Keith mills and

Greg Abel  09:57

formative they aren’t they like you?

Nestor J. Aparicio  09:59

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deeper side of me is where every every night I hear Frank Wooten and Ron wenig and Rappaport and jacket in my ear when I added Baltimore positive, which, if you look at it, it feels like the Baltimore news American come to life 40 years later in real time, you know, well,

Greg Abel  10:14

I’ll tell you what one of my before I got the job at the Business Journal had just a freelance job right out of college rewriting wire copy for the newscast for WJ D on TV Hill. And in that newsroom was the legendary out Sanders and Denise Koch, who’s still there. And my cousin Mitch Freedman shout out Mitch, who helped me get the job is now the EVP and has been for years. At at, you know, I would always call it Jay Z or channel 13. But, you know, those people did their work with such professionalism and pride that it couldn’t help it rubbed off rub off on me at a at a young age. And, and the other thing it did was you realize that people you saw on TV were just human beings who happen to have these TV jobs. Right. That

Nestor J. Aparicio  10:55

was the wonderful part of being 15 at a Skipjacks press conference, is, there’s Chris Thomas, there’s Jack Dawson, who I still never talked to because I was intimidated by their greatness. You know what I mean? Like? Yeah, yeah. A plane. Yeah, kid in the 70s or 80s, when, when Marty Basser Bob Turk came and played basketball at Halliburton middle, it was a big deal. It was a big Jerry Turner was a legend here.

Greg Abel  11:19

Oh, yeah, for sure. So without standards, and, and, you know, I will say that about like, bring it back to the freeze of birth. It’s just the you’re documenting a thing that you think is important, or interesting, or fun or funny, or whatever the thing is, you know, I think that’s why I’ve gotten into communications as a career. I like connecting people. I like telling stories. I like remembering things that I think are meaningful and important to share. And so those were all sort of the reasons why it came together for me. And it wasn’t my moment. It was really yours. And Baltimore’s in a way, like kind of like, it was almost like the come to life version of your radio, like it must have been gratifying for you, because these were your people. And they showed up for you that day. Well,

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Nestor J. Aparicio  12:07

the documentary that I’m doing is called No one listens, everyone hears and that’s been a story of 30 years of doing this and Craig April’s our guest, you know, I didn’t really want to go down the free the birds like, like, but what I was gonna say to you is I made that point that that pivot, we came down, and I looked over at the section in left field. And there were 1200 people behind me that Dave Ginsburg then called 600, or whatever. And I read him. I mean, I went nuts for like I said, you should have been counting the heads because I did. I was up there I video cameras, you’re not going to tell me it was a little gathering 200 people because it wasn’t right. So we’re going to so I’ll even borrow up 18 years later about that. But I got down to that foyer behind left field. And it was one Osher and 1200 a boss and I’m like, I’m walking in there. And schmuck was standing there. And I walk right at schmuck and I walked into the alcove. And then we walked into the bowl, the stadium, but that was not in any way, in any way. premeditated, like I had no idea was going to happen. But I think that that was made it the most effective. That’s what made it look like a movie, when ESPN show 1200 People trailing through the bowl of the stadium walking through it, right? Like that was the that was the image that I didn’t even to your point, you can bake something up and the weather can screw it up or whatever. And then the other part of it was he threw me out. It’s been 18 years, which is really why I brought you on, which was really a celebration of the fact that we’ve lived through this. This team’s very good. And what I want to talk to you about and I really, because our time is a little short, because of the window we’re in, I wanted to have you for real crabcake and really do nuts and bolts on. Where do we go from here? And I don’t want to get to Mork and Mindy on it. Or you know, what have we learned here? But you get a new guy and with a lot of money. He’s got Cal Ripken he’s got. Yeah. Because, yeah, he’s got our support just because he’s not Peter, right? Like, he’s got five minutes to like, you know, show everything and everybody it starts at my press pass. And I talked to them last week about like, hey, look, man, I want to help you. I wanted to help the other guy. But like, look at the track record of everything, the totality of Peter, and where you are. And these empty ballpark this week after opening day. There’s, there’s so much as Deepak Chopra would say pure potentiality here, and I really want to pick your brain because you love the orals more than anybody which goes back to the video with freedom and all that stuff. But here we are. And I want to go to games with you. And I want to love the team and I want them to love Oscar, but how can they do that? Well,

Greg Abel  14:39

look, it starts with the product on the field. And that’s a very good product right now. I mean, we had a really fun season last year, even though ownership didn’t change until the offseason this has been building for some time. And you know, Mike Elias and his team have put together a really strong product right and they did it from the ground up they had to read Build the farm system. They built the baseball center in the Dominican. And then they drafted well in their developing players well, and now the guy is showing up to play on the field or people who now have jerseys that if you go online, you can buy like I remember three years ago, I have two boys. They’re 16 and 19. Now, but at the time, they’re both like middle school and high school. Now it was like it was they wanted to get get a Jersey, New Jersey, we’re gonna buy well, like four years ago. It was I think the only jersey that was even on sale it on any of the reputable sites was, I think Mullins and it wasn’t even, like plentiful like that there weren’t any like there wasn’t a player to be excited about. Your new athlete was coming. You hadn’t heard of gunner yet, you know. And now we have other guides, like Westberg and like race and Rodriguez, who are all like this young group of exciting players. So for any fan of any age, but particularly true young people who are the future of the fan base. There are a group of young guys who are kind of cool, and exciting to watch. So you can idolize for lack of a better word There our a cow and Edie. I grew up loving Eddie Murray. Loving Cal Ripken, Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson going back a little further. And so like there weren’t guys like that for a big block of time. You had you had players, right. And you had some of those guys had a good season here or there. You had to have Brady, you know, there was a time in 9697. We’re good. And there was Paul mero. And Roberto Alomar. But there’s a wasteland between that and then when Manny showed up. And so I think what’s happening now is the difference between this ownership group in the past was, I think, in the past, we got to this point, right? Where you have a core group of really good players are going to be exciting to watch for years. But in the past ownership group in the back of your mind was like this is this little window of hopefully, three years four, maybe we’ll be able to keep good players, because they’re not going to resign them. The next contract that Adly is going to sign is going to be with somebody else. Same thing with Ghana. Now, you have a different feeling, you have the feeling that maybe we can keep a group of stars together and pay them when they need to be paid. And that’s different.

Nestor J. Aparicio  17:18

All right, so So paying the players, Greg Abel, Abel communications is here and tell me what you do just in the middle of of this strategic marketing communications is what I would say that but I, I don’t give your elevator speech.

Greg Abel  17:31

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No, it’s fine. Thank you. I run communications. We’re a public relations firm. So we work mostly with businesses, to help them get the word out about their people and products and services. And we do that through media relations and social and digital marketing programs. So I’ve been doing work like that for 18 years here in this market. And, and even before then, I’ve been here in Baltimore. And so we have, you know, we have a team. We’re based in Mount Vernon, and always been based in Baltimore City. One of the hallmark things I do with my team, from a culture perspective is close the office on opening day we go downtown, we pregame then we go to the game, and I’ve always made fun of Baltimore and loving and supporting Baltimore, a part of the agency. And so we also look for clients who feel that way. Not always, that’s not always the thing, but it’s a nice thing to be a part of, if you can help to tell a story that improves the narrative around Baltimore.

Nestor J. Aparicio  18:28

Well, I’ve been trying to do that via Baltimore positive for a number of years now. You know, it started as sort of a little bit of a thought to run for political office to fix the city. We’re in the middle of the election cycle we talking about all of that. Yeah, I think if he was an entrepreneur and a business guy and your brother who I did some legal work with, I mean, your Baltimore institutionally connected as a person I think your LinkedIn and my LinkedIn as we link over we could probably find everybody on a text you know, right from the governor straight on through right so I would just say from the business side of this, your dream of signing rutschman Hendersen holiday giving them all market contracts and keeping them all here and having the Orioles have a payroll of let’s say $180 million dollar and I’m just I’m just saying like, like they’re not 300 million, but like not we’re a poor little franchise poor pitiful me forever while they scan the mass and money and like I like I look, I could say I could write a book I did. I’ve written several books about this. So you know, I’m a pretty good historian about all the where the money went. Now I look at it and say, okay, new guys are in billion seven in, everything smells good. Everything’s cool. How do they now do business differently? Whether it’s TJ Brightman and Greg Bader, whether it’s a new team where the Ravens have the same challenges with Sashi Brown, the Ravens have $10 tickets most days and empty seats in the upper deck that they can’t give away when the weather’s not perfect. And Sashi doesn’t sit in front of people. They’re not really out in front in the way that David Modell and art modell and PSLs, of which I was a guy who sold them, the Oreos have a different value proposition. And I think through bam, through media through whatever mass is going to be and whatever regional sports is going to be. And we certainly know whatever the band or the sun, whatever, these WPA or whatever traditional media looks like, they are going to have to have a completely different model there get $600 million. So what are we going to do with that? How to maximize that we’re gambling on all of this. So these are the things if I’m sitting with David Rubenstein, I’m talking to him about it. But more than anything, it’s Greg, you love baseball? I love baseball. I didn’t give the old man money before obviously, would I give them money now? Sure. What do I expect my press pass back? Yes, I actually do, because I’ve earned the right to and my immediate pass. And if they don’t give me that, fair enough, but it can be really hard for me to be reaching for my checkbook and saying, I’m getting treated fairly, or they don’t, they’re doing things differently in any way. And I’ve read all the stipulations to which you know, I own a radio station, I’m on the air, you know, so like, I do business with the federal government and have for 25 years, I’m pretty honorable citizen, decent guy. So if that doesn’t, considering everything’s perfect Calvinists that I give them money, I joined the orange club at $1,400 a year, I get the television thing I get a jersey, I get discounts on squires pizza, and acumen, food, which is delicious. They put beautiful things in to see if everything goes perfectly. They need to generate the kind of revenue that I just talked about at the beginning, which is our dream, right, which is corporate burns gets a four year deal for 140 million and breaks, it turns out and we just win three championships, the next seven years, and the place is packed, it better be at their price, whatever their price point is $15 beers Guchi. This club level that suite sales, this marketing that, you know, like, it’s gotta be that it’s got to be robust for them to be able to really compete and keep these players. I

Greg Abel  22:01

think so. They’re on the right path. I mean, think of it this way. They just got here. They’ve already done a few symbolic things. You know, I’m in the PR business. Well, what did they do on opening day the ownership group went out to the bar and centerfield bought around. I mean, just that is so different than past ownership, just being a part of the fan experience. And last night and watching the game, and yet the crowd was light, but you have to give them a pass. I mean, it’s, you know, 45 degrees and raining on a Tuesday night again, my wife

Nestor J. Aparicio  22:29

said to me, would you go and I’m like, you know, I don’t know, if they put a $5 ticket thing on a five o’clock whether people would even like even for I don’t know, that’s not their value proposition. I think their value proposition is become by a month come down, hang out in the outfield, drink beer and sit on the lawn at Merriweather, I think that’s going to be and make sure you’re watching the game at home when you’re not here. You know, I think

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Greg Abel  22:52

that’s how they’re going to bring in the younger fans, the young adult fans, you know, the families, the people who have younger kids are going to want to come out because they’re gonna want to give them that ballpark experience and kind of, you know, put the oils in their blood the way it is with some older folks. And you know, the oil last the generation of fans, I think, in the 14 consecutive losing seasons that took place from like, 99 to what was it 2003 or four? Because it was just she’s been she has fought for

23:26

12 Right. It was like 12. Really? Yeah. So I have

Greg Abel  23:31

nephews and nieces are who were born in like 99. And growing up the ORS but just bad. And so people didn’t go and it didn’t become part of them. And so that’s kind of rebooting right now. Right? That’s a really, across

Nestor J. Aparicio  23:44

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here. So if I was going to talk to David Rubenstein about that, Lacrosse is a huge issue here. And it’s one or the other for a lot of families. And a lot of people it really is, especially if your kids committed to playing boy or girl. Yeah. And

Greg Abel  23:57

I would say that, as we as we think about the future, the franchise and the era we live in, you know, we’re having this conversation on Zoom and kids these days, not just kids, everyone has a lot of options. When it comes to entertainment, everything’s on demand, everything’s in your hand, you know, you don’t have to get in your car and drive downtown, find parking, buy a ticket, buy food, it’s an expensive, time consuming proposition. So as much as you know, across the competitor, so the television so it’s everything else you can do. And that has changed a lot too. And so we have to recognize the moment we’re in we’re not seeing ballparks being built now with 60,000 seats. We’re seeing ballparks that are smaller, and they’re more kind of compact and sort of intimate. And it’s it’s intentional because I don’t think these franchises think the days of the Orioles when the stadium open it was packed every single night are coming back and that isn’t because the oils aren’t good now it’s because the world has changed and well

Nestor J. Aparicio  24:52

then their their model has to change and how much money they’re gonna get from the people who are engaged, which is way different than the spigot have cable television that just threw money at them at Peter’s people. This is the new era. And you know, we got regional sports networks going upside down. I had Barry bloom on this week talking about that. I talked about this stuff all the time. Because now that I and by the way, I have this bottle of I bought this, I got this a drug city, it’s the prisoner. This is beautiful wine. It’s like a 92 point are way above my paygrade. But I got this and I haven’t opened it yet. When I get my media credential back, I’m going to open it because the prisoner will be released. But like, I keep thinking of this like, organic thing that they have the opportunity to do here. But we keep talking about like, smaller stadium smaller, they’re smaller, that cost a lot of money to go down to the point of how bad the weather was. And then I said to my wife, I’m like, you know, it cost a lot of money. And then you have a bad experience when it’s cold. It’s no way to have a great experience at a baseball game was cool. But they’re asking the same price. And I just think that there’s this club, they’re going to create the title want to really be the next thing that we’re not. We’re familiar with season tickets, right? Like,

Greg Abel  26:08

if you really wanted to go last night, you could have gone up and sat downstairs for $11. You know, you just need to, there is an aftermarket market corrects for that. But if you bought a 20, whatever game plan, and that was one of your games you are you’re not even stuck with a ticket you can go

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Nestor J. Aparicio  26:28

out right, yeah. So listen to games two and a half hours now. They start at 630. They they’ve listened to their fans, I mean, as a sport they have not locally here, but like, this group has such a potential to rock this thing. And I’m sure I’m pulling for him. I want him to do every year right? You know, I really

Greg Abel  26:48

do. Yeah, and after and after, you know, we’re in a moment in Baltimore with the bridge collapse and with some eyes on this city, and these next few years, are really important for the city, how we respond to a tragedy. And I think institutions like the Orioles that are emblematic of our city are very important in this moment to conduct themselves in a way that people can be proud of. And I think that that goes across sports teams with the business community as well so excited to be part of that and hopefully be a part of a solution around here and I appreciate the work you’re doing as well. Well

Nestor J. Aparicio  27:21

can’t get a crab cake and bring me the plan on fixing the Orioles. You know what I mean? Like that’s I mean, it’s interesting to see all the directions they could go in that I really want to pick the brain of people like you and in a bigger way. I’m sorry, we talked so much about free the birds but it has inspired me to get the Snyder on. So you know if the Snyder comes on the program, it’s because of you and and you did inspire me and so many more than you know, so I just want to give you some, some real love because I learned from people who do things like what you did after what I did 18 years ago. We’re still friends sort

Greg Abel  27:54

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of Yeah, right back atcha Well, thanks so much. That’s the pleasure. Ice

Nestor J. Aparicio  27:58

cold refreshment. Ain’t the beer cold we’ll get a beer in the Camden Yards this year. All right. I mean, you got Greg April April communications. Go find him out on the interwebs and the LinkedIn and the socials. He’s a good man. He’s local guy and he loves the Orioles as much as I do. And crab cakes as well. I’m Nestor we are wn St. Am 5070 tasks at Baltimore and we never stop talking Baltimore positive with awesome people.

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