Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Nate McLouth, 2013 Topps Orioles Team Set #BAL14
-Throughout our week in the Endless Mountains, Janet suggested that I should get myself some "honeymoon cards". Naturally, it didn't take much prodding. I couldn't find a hobby shop way up north in Pennsylvania, and I'm kind of worn out on my non-Topps compromises at retail stores. (One man can only buy so many Panini packs and repack boxes.) So I held off until we got home and I had some idea of how much money my bride would be spending on "honeymoon yarn" (she's an avid knitter, you see). Then I knew what kind of budget I should make for myself. In the midst of a busy Sunday spent trying to replace our old refrigerator (back to reality!), we took a mental health break and went wandering in Toys 'R' Us. I didn't blow my whole honeymoon card budget, but I did get a few discounted rack packs of 2007 Fleer Ultra and a spiffy new binder for use in conjunction with one of my wedding gifts. That right, I included Ultra-Pro binder sheets on our Amazon gift registry, and my wise friend John actually bought them for me. I've already put binder and sheets to use, as they now house a half-completed 1977 Topps set. Now I've got set binders assembled for most of the 1970s sets: 1972 and 1974-1978. It looks like 1973 will be next...
-I'm disappointed that the O's lost yet another close game on my wedding day, but there was still plenty of home team spirit to go around. Friends and family regularly stopped by our sweetheart table during dinner to deliver score updates, so I knew all about Manny Machado's 50th double and 14th home run. Similarly, my sister and I shared a moment of celebration at the rehearsal dinner on Friday night upon learning that Chris Davis had reached the 50-homer milestone. Our color theme was apple red and burnt orange, so the latter showed up in accents like cloth napkins, decorative signage, and the flowers. I'll share photos as soon as I have some. Janet and I were stumped about which song the wedding party should have for introductions, but inspiration struck at the last moment. Our bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls, and ultimately the new Mrs. B. and myself were all introduced to the strains of Mr. Mister's "Kyrie", which you might also know as one of Nate McLouth's preferred at-bat walkup songs. Finally, our farm wedding locale gave me the ideal excuse to make a request to the DJ: John Denver's "Thank God I'm a Country Boy", a seventh-inning stretch standard in Baltimore since the early days of Orioles Magic. By a stroke of good timing, the song was played deep enough into the reception that both Janet and yours truly were free of all other obligations and were able to burn up the dance floor in the refurbished barn. Meanwhile most of our guests were happy to watch from the sidelines and clap along to the beat. It was the single most enjoyable and enduring moment of the reception from my point of view.
-Last night kicked off the final homestand of the 2013 season for the Birds and their fans. There will be no postseason this year. It's a shame that things are ending this way (ongoing six-game losing streak, Manny Machado knee injury, etc.), because I truly believe that this year's team is fundamentally better than the "Buckle Up" club that surprised us all with 93 wins and a Division Series berth in 2012. They've got better defense, better starting pitching on the whole, and career-best offensive production from Chris Davis, Adam Jones, and Machado. But they haven't had any of the lucky breaks that just seemed to snowball in the most wonderful way one year ago. Keeping in mind that I have barely seen any of the baseball the Orioles have played in the last two weeks, the ebb and flow of these games and the storylines that are trickling out of them can be simplified as such: these guys are dog-tired. They've been in the daily grind for seven months, fighting in a tightly-contested division and even more tightly-contested wild card scenario, they've all got their own cumulative aches and pains that we'll never even hear about, many of them have dealt with travel snares and family issues and media and fan pressure and God knows what else. Hell, they've had ONE day off in the past four weeks. Maybe the successes of 2012, the relative disappointments of 2013, and the often razor-thin margins between the two, have given me a new perspective on the fan experience. These Orioles are not losers, or failures, or jokes. They're a bunch of guys who have had a rough couple of weeks on the job in difficult circumstances. This has also been my first year as a partial season-ticket holder. I've been to two dozen or more games, many of them exciting and joyous, others dull and frustrating. I've found a comfortable rhythm to the Camden Yards experience: when to arrive, what to eat, what to drink, where to sit, who I'll see sitting in the stands around me from game to game. I feel at home in Oriole Park in a way that I never did before. So as I came down from the stress of wedding planning, the elation of the big event, and the peace and simplicity of the honeymoon, the rapidly-approaching conclusion of the baseball season caught me off guard. There will be no postseason in Charm City. The tickets I hold for tonight's game, tomorrow's game, and Saturday's penultimate game are all that stand between me and the long, quiet uncertainty of the offseason. I feel a more profound sense of loss this September than I can ever remember feeling before. I will spend these three games saying my goodbyes to the sights and sounds and tastes of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. But I will see you again next year, my old friend. Early and often.