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A Farewell with a Twist…to the FCL

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Several years ago, while recovering from a major accident, I started fixating on the Orioles minor leagues. It was an outstanding decision and a way for me to keep a promise to myself I made when I was in the hospital healing.

Since then I’ve watched as one of the worst systems in the sport has transformed into one of the best. The significance of that shift will never be lost on me. Fortunately, because of where I live in Florida, my seat has been front row and my access encouraged.

There were no podcasts two years ago. There was no way to learn about the inner workings of the system or the day to day happenings throughout the affiliates.

Well that’s also changed. There’s intense coverage from each and every level and I am so proud to be a part of it. I can talk O’s anytime anywhere, and now people even care to hear it. But the overwhelming pride and chance to demonstrate the Orioles recent and future success is not my motivation.

When I got struck by a car on my bicycle I remember the unavoidable moment it happened and my instant of fright. I’ve since recovered both physically and between the ears and no longer am afraid from it. I’m very lucky to be both alive and unafraid and I remind myself all the time.

But I’ll tell you when I do get that lump in my throat and worry…

Several times at baseball games I’ll get a foul ball or one thrown up to me and when I turn and look for a kid to give it to, there’s none there. It stings. I think in that instant ‘what if this is the beginning of the end of baseball’ and that’s not a comforting thought.

So I’m always trying to show parts of the game that are positive and put the players in the spotlight, hoping that young people will see them and make the decision to follow the sport closely. Like lots of other people in lots of other walks of life, especially baseball, I’m insecure about this to the point that if fuels my trying to change it.

I’ve had some success as an ambassador this way, and am even mailing a friend in Baltimore foul balls I collected for him to start practicing with his young son. Anything to continue that circle and keep the game going. By the way, don’t get me started on both sexes playing the game (I’m for it), but know that I’m looking for girls first w/my foul balls these days.

With society seeming to sway and change so quickly, culture affecting lots of decisions and outcomes, it’s great to know that a ball, a couple gloves and some bats can still bring people together and encourage healthy competition. The umpires usually mess things up but hey… I’m 42 now, so I’m finally getting used to that.

There are lots of families, players and other Orioles people that I’d like to thank for hooking me up and helping me out this year. Everybody knows who they are and my extended baseball community continues to grow. That makes me extremely lucky. I’ve even gotten into the Pirates by being close to their A affiliate and FCL complex in Bradenton. Now I know their system inside and out too! The Marauders start the playoffs in a few days and I am an amazing 22-7 watching them in person this year. Hopefully I can be there when they beat the Yankees-affiliated Tampa Tarpons who are pretty darn good themselves.

What I’ve started is not finished, but it’s also not complicated. Loving your team and letting everybody know are a good first few steps to getting closer. Add in some passion and dedicated attendance and you’re further along than you even realize. Don’t think that you’re too young or too inexperienced to make a connection. Support is what drives these people, and it’s so unbelievably easy to do. Nothing should stop you and I’m noticing that the sport and the people in it need you.

I just walked to my local stadium one day and on the field were the GCL Champions for that year. You never know what you’ll see at a game; it may change everything if you’re open to it.

Until next year, goodbye to my FCL family. It has been an amazing season. I expect you to be back and in great shape soon, and to keep in touch. Thanks for sharing so much with me so I can in turn share it with fans.

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