I'm going to take a cue from those Southwest Airlines ads and get away for a while. I'm taking a half-day off of work tomorrow and driving down to my old stomping grounds in Chestertown. My alma mater is celebrating the grand opening of a huge, beautiful, brand-new performing arts center and I've booked my hotel room for the weekend. Not that I didn't enjoy dorm life, but these will be the finest accommodations that I've ever had in that town. I'm excited to see the large numbers of friends and acquaintances who are coming out of the woodwork for this event.
I've been getting bombarded with emails for weeks as more and more happenings are added to the itinerary. As of now, I'll be: witnessing one of my friends receive an alumni award for his playwriting talents (and attending a reception in his honor); seeing the first Department of Drama play in the new theatre; attending a toast and a crab and pizza feast (what, don't those two foods go together?) with other drama alums; and of course hitting some of my favorite haunts (Luisa's Italian restaurant, O'Connor's Pub, and Andy's bar). There was a small, nagging part of me that wanted to catch one last Orioles game on this final homestand, but this ersatz college reunion is kind of a big deal. I suppose you could argue that Melvin Mora's probable final game with the O's is also important...but I need to make a clean break, and come back refreshed in the Spring.
So, why Matt Riley? Because it's been almost a decade since I rolled onto campus in August 2000. That's incredibly hard to believe. Do you know what else is unbelievable? When I was a freshman in college, this guy was a monster pitching prospect and a guy who was going to turn around a couple years of misfortune in Baltimore. He scraped out five wins in 26 career games pitched with a 5.99 ERA, as injuries and immaturity dogged him for years. Now, we at least have more legitimate young arms and a superior rookie named Matt. Progress can be found if you're paying attention.
P.S.: While I was writing this post, the O's defeated the Rays 3-2 to momentarily stop the madness. Chris Waters two-hit the Rays over five innings and the bullpen turned in three spotless frames before Jim Johnson's now-customary ninth-inning horror show made things exciting. Somehow, this all makes perfect sense.