Where was I? Oh right, Blogger Day. So yesterday at noon I made my way to the Home Plate Plaza at Camden Yards, where I met with Todd Webster of the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) and several fine folks who don't make a living writing about the Orioles. I spent much of the day hanging with Stacey, Bill, and Marianne from Camden Chat, but I also got to rub shoulders with Pete (aka the Wayward O), Heath of Dempsey's Army, and others. There were at least a dozen of us - pretty solid representation for a team that's fallen on such hard times.
After a brief stop off at the MASN club level suite and some handing out of O's swag (media guides and copies of Orioles Magazine), Todd took us to the broadcast booth to meet play-by-play man Gary Thorne and his partner for the weekend, ex-Oriole pitcher, coach, and executive Mike Flanagan. We asked them a few questions, and the session was punctuated nicely when Stacey showed Gary her "Please drink...responsibly" t-shirt. Fortunately, the golden-throated Thorne let out a big laugh, as he was tickled to know that some fans noticed the way he draws that phrase out when reading beer ads. He even joked that it would get longer as the season wore on. Here's a crooked picture of Gary and Mike, taken with my iPhone.We returned to the suite and tucked into the pregame spread (personally, I went with the crab cakes, some tortilla chips and pico de gallo, and a Corona). After a few minutes, the door swung open and in walked Andy MacPhail, the general manager who has fostered more legitimate optimism than Baltimore has seen in a decade. I had the honor of not just shaking his hand, but also asking him a question during a brief Q and A. I wanted to know if he'd considered signing any of the young O's to "team-friendly" extensions like the one Evan Longoria received from the Rays. He called it a good question (not that I'm one to toot my own horn...ahem), and bluntly stated that Tampa Bay has no money and has to act sooner in locking their players up. They gambled with Longoria by making that deal right after he debuted with them, and the numbers were so low (six years guaranteed at $17.5 million) because they'd bought out his pre-arbitration years. He said that his inclination was to extend players with about three years experience, as he did with Nick Markakis. That way you have some idea that a player has staying power, but you're also buying out some free agent years. Much of the Blogger Day itinerary was similar to last year's event, but the MacPhail appearance was one very pleasant surprise.It was only fitting that we also had an opportunity to talk shop with MASN's own Orioles bloggers, Steve Melewski and Roch Kubatko. Each stopped by the suite for a few innings, and I had a good one-on-one chat with Melewski, who did the Aberdeen IronBirds radio play-by-play the year that I interned for the club. He just suffered a heart attack a week ago, but fortunately it was a small one as far as they go and he says he's doing well. I don't have a picture of Roch or Steve, so here's the view from the suite. Just like last year, Rick Dempsey was there to watch the game and keep score in preparation for his role on MASN's postgame show. He seemed unaware that we would all be there that day, but handled our gawking, kind words, and photo requests with grace and friendliness. I posted the picture of the two of us yesterday, but here's a solo shot of Rick.Tippy Martinez also popped in briefly, and I took the opportunity to say hello and even mentioned that I'd met him way back in 1994 when he was the guest of honor at my Little League parade. I'm not sure what he thought of that, but at least I didn't mention the fact that his driver ran over the foot of one of my teammates.
Late in the game, Todd took a few of us down to the TV production truck. It's amazing to see up close just how many people (17 in the truck alone) it takes to bring the game to your living room, and to see the focus and concentration that they have. There are ten different camera angles to choose from at any given moment.
In the end, the Birds wasted a very strong start by Kevin Millwood thanks to those ice-cold bats (Blue Jays 5, Orioles 2), but it was a beautiful Sunday afternoon spent in good company. Thanks to Todd Webster and to Kristen Hudak, and a lot of credit goes to the Orioles too. They didn't have to cooperate as much as they did, but they seem to recognize that some of their most dedicated fans are spending time and effort fostering discussion of the team on the Internet. A little goes a long way.