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Birdland Loses a Beloved Member

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If you love baseball and follow it with all of your being, the parallels between the sport and your real life aren’t hard to see. It tests every part of you, which is somewhat refreshing. A good friend has faced his ultimate end. The real pink slip. There will be no opportunities for him to lower his ERA, or improve his average with runners in scoring position. He sadly passed from cancer.

Without the wins we want so bad, losing has brought Oriole fans closer to each other than we’d perhaps like. We’re an extended family united in both hope and frustration that the Orioles will one day prove that they’re as good as we thought. All of us play a role. My friend Michael, in our time together, showed decency and patience often in his. Proving in gestures, effort and communication that he was a decent man and a dedicated fan. Now the family of dedicated O’s supporters is going to be one quality guy poorer. It stings in an emotion-stirring way.

If you watch players improve their game over any period you quickly realize that the instructors and the coaches make all the difference outside of the lines. The more reps of the right play they make, the faster it becomes instinct, or reaction. When it’s time to field the screaming grounder or use the A+ pickoff move, they’re on their own, but the teaching and the preparation leaves them in position to make the right play. I enjoy writing about baseball and making people excited about the minors and I’m better at it because of the guy who was editing and correcting it when I first started. His coaching and assistance made me realize that I can do that, so I did. And still try to. The ways he encouraged me were unique and inspiring. He was in every way a very supportive friend.

There’s a time to be encouraged by a Kyle Brnovich curveball or a Robert Neustrom home run reaching 500 feet. But there’s also a time to celebrate someone for loving baseball their whole life long and being a kind person and example to others. It’s truly saddening to hear the news I got from him weeks ago, but the way to make it better for me is to let everybody know that our family is smaller and the loss is significant.

We got to watch some practice and some games and see the foundation for the future before quarantine changed our circumstances. Discussing players and teams from the past was the ultimate baseball bonding exercise. The anecdotes and experiences made me realize that although this guy was born before me that we’re unfortunately united in O’s ineptitude. A shared hunch that baseball’s cyclical nature will bring trophies back our way drew us close as pals. There were plans to watch some more but now I’ll be here and he’ll be watching from above. Some of the ways I felt about the Orioles future I shared with him, he realized I wasn’t crazy and those things have come true one after another. The title isn’t coming this year but it will be here soon. The work to get there has proven more thrilling that we could have ever believed. Just a couple of Orange and Black optimists believing that the tide will turn.

Much like a good defense can hide a pitchers’ flaws, winning baseball can make up for a lot of real life things. It fills in some gaps that need it.

Success is measured a few different ways, but sometimes it’s as simple to see as numbers on a score line. I know who I’ll be thinking about when that World Series winning run crosses the plate because calling the Orioles champions means so much to my friend Weams. Yet another reason to look forward to that moment. Thanks for all your help and especially your example of being a great person. You’re batting 1.000 and in my lineup forever.

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