Not quite the ‘real’ Sect. 34, but I smelled Oriole Magic on the field

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I gave the Orioles “another chance” today at
Oriole Park.

I will quantify and explain my reasoning for going back to
the ballpark in another blog, but for today I just want to talk about going to
an actual Oriole game in Baltimore on a gorgeous 80-plus degree day and
painting the picture of what I saw.

Especially, since like many of you, I have really nothing to
compare it to — except a Ravens game or a Blast game, because I haven’t been
in a while.

For the first time in nearly three years, I just walked out
my door through downtown and went to an Orioles game.

I’ve seen one since May 2004 — a game with the Red Sox at
Fenway more because it was my wife’s birthday and the Orioles just happened to
be the team they were playing that night.

But my client and friend, Syd Nusinov, offered me a pair for
the game yesterday and I went with him.

He didn’t cheat me. They were in Section 34, which
immediately got me thinking about the “real” section 34. You know.
the one I spent a good part of my childhood within over on 33rd Street (which
right away, makes me a geezer, just talking about the past — ancient
history!).

And when I wasn’t there, my spirit always was across
Memorial Stadium in Sect. 10.

But this was a “different” Sect. 34 today at
Camden Yards. We were five rows behind Cal Ripken’s seats, which went empty
much of the afternoon, apparently like a lot of tickets do.

I was pinched between Syd, my wife and a guy named Bill from
Lancaster, Pa.

A BIG ballfan, this Bill, who talked my ear off for four
innings about baseball, his son and the Orioles. And, to my delight, we talked
real, honest-to-God baseball strategy.

He was a joy, this Bill from Lancaster, Pa.

“I started coming in 1971, brought my son down one day from
Lancaster to Memorial Stadium,” he started. “He was 8. And it was
like potato chips — he didn’t want just one.”

As for today’s game with the Blue Jays, he drove down alone
and went to the scalp-free zone and purchased this seat, about 50 feet from Gregg
Zaun’s backside for $45 outside at 1:25.

“Anything between 32 and 48 and you’re in good shape.
You just buy the first thing you see and I always wind up behind the plate. I didn’t need the season tickets anymore once I figured it out. But once you get in here, you have to
like baseball. Bill Hagy is gone. The energy isn’t here.”

Lemme say this: I’m 99% sure that Bill from Lancaster had no CLUE who I was or what I
did for a living. He just took his seat and talked baseball with the guy in a funny shirt next
to him.

“Look, I hate the Yankees but you gotta give it to
their fans,” he said. “They’re into every pitch. They’re on their feet and they love
baseball.”

Bill and I both love baseball!

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Here are some of my gamenotes from the game today…just
random, blogable thoughts about my day:


Miguel Tejada is a helluva ballplayer.

I think it’s nice that the Orioles are playing really well.
I really like watching a few of these guys and I’ve adopted my new favorite
Oriole, Kevin Millar. I really hope he doesn’t suck so bad that he won’t play.
It really is a shame that I don’t have a press pass because I’d like to talk to
some of these guys. Sounds like Jamie Walker and Chad Bradford would be country
folks who I’d probably have some laughs with — at least from the way Palmer
describes them on MASN.

On Tuesday night in Tampa Bay, I was honestly too “work-time
stretched” to get a few reports and catch up with some people I know that I didn’t
spend a lot of time meandering through the Orioles’ locker room. Honestly a few
guys were taking naps, and I was looking to say hello to the guys I actually do
know, more so than meet strangers on the Orioles.

I’m thinking about going to Cleveland this Friday, just for fun (the Indians would give me a press credential).
But with Hank Jr., Lynyrd Skynyrd and 38 Special in town, that’s a tough call.
And the NFL Draft is Saturday (I’ll address football some other time, but for now
I’m trying to save the baseball franchise from its lousy self!)

But back to Millar. I just dig his style, kinda carefree and
fun — sorta the “anti-Oriole,” you know a guy with some personality. And he won a championship in Boston, which makes my wife happy. And everybody always
writes him off.

But you know what?

During the first 10 minutes that I had my press pass on
Tuesday, Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon was in my face telling me what a
great leader and difference-maker Millar is for the Orioles. That makes a statement to me, when
an OPPOSING manager just SINGLES OUT a guy. It tells me a lot about Millar, so
I’m going to adopt him as my favorite Oriole and root hard for him.

(And Casey says I’d actually dig him if I knew him!)

I actually moved in to say hello on the field in St.
Petersburg Tuesday night, but he had to stretch. So, until I meet him (and as
long as he’s not a jerk, and I don’t think he will be), I’m making Kevin Millar
MY GUY — MY FAVORITE ORIOLE — for 2007.

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Is there something terrifically ironic about the Direc TV ad
on the LF wall touting HD TV?

And of course, three rows in front of my was MASN poohbah
Jim Cuddihy enjoying a day at the ballpark with his kids. (Until he looked at
me, I think?)

Apparently, I’m not real popular at MASN either, if you can
imagine that!

But what worse could they do to me than not let me in the
ballpark as a media member?

And by the way: when I left the game in the 7th inning and
came home, the game WASN’T on in HD?

WTF?

Has ANYONE read ANY explanation for the lack of orange and black HD programming (other than the fact that everyone at MASN is as inept and incompetant as those in The Warehouse have been over the past dozen years)?

Oh, that’s right — they’re not taking questions from me or anyone in the “public media” at the
Baltimore Orioles and MASN. Maybe Amber Theoharris can ask that question for me one night on camera?

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It’s good to see Gregg Zaun doing well.

He’s always been a super guy and a Baltimore lover.

Funny, he actually called me on my cell phone three years
ago when he was a final-day cut in Montreal. He called looking for his
“Uncle Rick” and his number to get in touch and see if the Orioles
needed a catcher. He was unemployed!

And, now he’s a No. 6 hitter with a solid contract under his
belt and a few pretty solid seasons as a starting catcher in the big leagues
in the AL East after playing almost a decade as a second-string guy.

He was always worried about carrying that “title”
of career-backup.

I’m glad he’s getting a shot and enjoying himself.

The first time I ever met Gregg Zaun was at that crappy old
shed in St. Petersburg in spring training 1993. By the way, it was called
“Huggins-Stengel” ballfield. (My thanks to longtime bullpen
catcher/coach Sam Snider, who remembered the name on Tuesday when I saw him
Florida.)

My favorite Zaun memories: taking a really cool picture on
the field at the 1997 World Series in the snow before Game 4 in Cleveland with
Jeff Manton, and when he appeared on my radio show from spring training in 1994
in Fort Lauderdale.

He sat down in the Marriott lobby on my makeshift set.
Somehow, there was an errant hair protruding from the microphone guard at his
seat.

Zaun proclaimed:

“How can you have me on a show where you have pubes
hanging off your mic?”

Last time I saw Zaun was at the Houston Super Bowl when he
was having a major charity fundraiser at the this great Texas, country-western
music bar. You had to have on a cowboy hat to get in and be taken seriously. It
was a hoot!

Zaun was always one of my
favorite Orioles!

He’s one of the last few guys in
the game that I actually search out his number to see how he’s doing. I pull
for Gregg Zaun.

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The theme of Sunday for me was that it HONESTLY wasn’t all
that much fun, even in a rout. The crowds aren’t just “kinda” lame.
They suck, to be honest!

Here’s the difference between and Ravens game and an Oriole
game on a Sunday afternoon:

When the Orioles were threatening their first rally of the
afternoon, with Nick Markakis at the plate, the organist kicked in a rally anthem.

It went like this…

“If you’re happy and you know it — clap your
hands…”

And then they did it again.

Right on the heels of the famous bugle beat and
“CHARGE,” came “If you’re happy and you know it.”

I was all set for a chorus of Kumbaya to break out when
Markakis ripped a triple off the centerfield wall.

And upon the arrival of their first run, that unbelievably
annoying “Hey Now, Hey Now” song was played. (It’s the song from the Six Flags commercial
and the one that’s played in every cheesy disco from about 10 years ago.)

Now, being an equal opportunity set of eyes and ears at Camden Yards
yesterday, I will ALSO say that Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” was being
rocked right before game time, which is a fine pre-game choice. There’s NEVER a
bad time to crank up a little Robert Plant, so it’s at least Camden Yards has
that going for it.

But if Peter Angelos gets a hold of any of Jimmy Page’s
bios, that “devil-worshipping” music will be banished from
Peterville!

Can you imagine hearing “If you’re happy and you know
it” being played on an organ at a Ravens game?

Do the Orioles know what century we’re in?

Just a thought…

 

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My childish, Dundalk, “I fight authority” moment
of the day:

I called Casey from my seat back into the press box and told
him to “give me my f%$*-ick pass back!”

That was fun!

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Aubrey Huff might just stink! I dunno. But he might just not
be any good. I hope I’m wrong, because I always liked him in Tampa Bay!

Once again, Miguel Tejada DOES NOT stink…he’s worth coming
to the ballpark to see, I think!

Steve Geppi was sitting over to my right, and if I could
“sign up” an owner for the “real” Orioles — whenever they
return to us — it would DEFINITELY be him.

Can you imagine:

Geppi and Cal Ripken owning the Orioles?

WOW!

There’s Geppi in the front row, looking well-coiffed,
black sweater — coolest guy in the stadium, no doubt!

He might be one of the few people who still loves the Orioles enough to endure their lousy experience on gamedays. But he does have a very good seat, as well!

By the way: I have tickets for tonight’s game and Thursday’s game against Boston. My neighbor hooked me up with a couple of pairs of his throwaways.

I’ll be reporting on the Orioles experience whenever I get free tickets.