Sunday, April 1, 2018
Caleb Joseph, 2015 Topps Orioles Team Set #BO-17
Last year, I made it a point to bring my son Finn to Oriole Park as often as was practical; six games in all, a number to grow on. The O's won the first five of those games before dropping a 7-4 clunker to the Yankees at the beginning of their September slide. Janet and I were excited to bring Finn to his first Opening Day this year, and he seemed to be up for it, too. We decked him out in his "Future MVP" Orioles onesie and his trusty orange cap, and on the way from the parking lot into the stadium he kept exclaiming "Orioles!" as he spotted all of the other folks in their team colors. We entered through Gate C, which meant that Finn could romp around to his heart's delight in the Kids' Corner before we made our way up to our seats. (He was especially fond of the slide.)
I'm always glad to see familiar faces year after year at the ballpark, and that includes the usher who typically works our section. He keeps a stash of baseball cards on his person to hand out to kids at the game, and Finn got a 1991 Score Terry Leach and a 1989 Fleer Brian Holton. I must admit that he spindled, folded, and mutilated both of them, but he is only 20 months old. I'll wait a bit to teach him the finer points of baseball card care. As far as the pregame ceremonies go, Finn was especially taken by the fireworks that were shot off over the scoreboard, and the flyover by the Maryland Air National Guard. Me, I'm a sucker for Jim Hunter introducing the Birds' players and urging the crowd to welcome the new team members to Baltimore. It's even better when he welcomes the rookies to the major leagues.
I have to admit that Finn's disposition wasn't as sunny throughout the game as it usually is; since first pitch was at 3:05 PM, he missed his afternoon nap. But after an early-inning snack, he was in better spirits. Fortune smiled on us as the game marched on; the additional tickets we'd bought for Opening Day were in section 342, so Janet, Finn, and I were separated from my sister and father, who took our season ticket seats in 340. But if anyone had the two seats next to my sis and dad, they didn't show. So we were all reunited for the second half of the game, once we were reasonably sure that nobody would come around to displace us. That meant that we had an even better view for Caleb Joseph's clutch two-run triple, which broke a scoreless tie in the seventh inning. That huge hit was all the sweeter because it came off the bat of one of our favorite O's players (and probably our favorite person on the team). After all, Finn's middle name is Caleb, and incidentally, he learned to say "Caleb" before he could/would say "Finn".
Through the late innings of the game, our kiddo was visibly exhausted. His eyelids were drooping, and he chomped down on his blanket and nestled into Janet's arms.When Brad Brach gave up the lead in the top of the ninth, Finn finally gave up the ghost. He slumbered through extra innings, and didn't even stir when Adam Jones crushed Fernando Rodney's first fastball into the left field seats in the bottom of the eleventh and we joined the rest of the sellout crowd in uproarious cheers and shouts. Janet leapt to her feet, pulled Finn to her chest, and rhythmically thumped him on the back in lieu of applause...and still he didn't wake. But as soon as we were out on the concourse, making our way out of the park with the rest of the thrilled O's fans, he snapped back to life, chattering and squirming. It still counts as a win on his ledger, even if he needed a little power nap to survive.