1. With the Orioles set to embark on what is sure to be the weirdest of their 65+ seasons in Baltimore, things are still extremely weird and uncomfortable in the world around them. It’s not even really a world around them, it’s the world they’re directly living in. It’s the same one we’re all living in, and it hasn’t seemed to get much better since mid-March, when sports as a whole were put on hold.
But now baseball’s back, for better or potentially worse. I’m still not convinced it’s the right thing to do. I haven’t heard a good argument from anyone that playing baseball games right now across the country, even with no fans, is the morally right thing to be doing. It’s about the almighty dollar, still. We know that. But putting all of that aside, fans will have baseball to watch, and have had it for the last week or so in the form of exhibition games.
Things are about to get even weirder.
2. I wrote about a month ago, when baseball first announced it had come to an agreement to return, how skeptical I was about it all. I’m still about as skeptical as I was, but there’s no use in my mentally trying to stop a boulder from rolling down a hill. Baseball’s here, and I’m going to watch.
As weird as it’s going to be, I’m going to watch.
As bad as the Orioles are going to be, I’m going to watch.
Even though they are going to inexplicably pump fake crowd noise into the broadcasts, I’m going to watch.
Even when FOX Sports places fake digital fans in the stands during games they air, I’m going to watch.
None of it will be as good as baseball is if there wasn’t a global pandemic, but life in general isn’t as good when there wasn’t a global pandemic.
We’re just doing baseball in the middle of it now.
3. Much of my time spent in quarantine has been spent catching up with family and friends via Zoom calls. This isn’t uncommon, as I know many people have discovered Zoom or any other type of video conference app in order to connect with those who you can’t connect with in person.
Part of my Zoom diet has been taking place each Sunday in calls set up by my father, who has worked for the O’s since 1995. He’s been gathering a small group of his friends, some season ticket holders, as well as former players, coaches and umpires to talk baseball. We’ve had regular appearances from Don Buford, ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian and journalist Roy Firestone. We’ve even been graced by the presence of folks like Rick Dempsey and Jim Palmer at one time or another during the last few months. Everyone gets together and spends a few hours telling stories and sharing laughs about the game and life during a pandemic. These calls have beautifully bridged a gap between a time when spring training was taking place in Florida and Arizona until now, when baseball is returning in the weirdest way possible.
The Zoom meetings may even continue, because it’s not like anyone is going to the games. We’ll all just be watching them from home. Truthfully, the one thing I’ve learned over these last few months is that baseball can endure such weird times. Baseball creates opportunity for weird even in times that are more normal. Baseball’s stories last decades, as I’ve heard about from many of these people who have been part of the game for that long. Baseball stories, especially ones told by the types of people on these weekly calls, can endure anything.
They are what keep me coming back to the game even during tough times for my own team.
4. Those tough times are sure to be front and center for the Orioles this season. Sixty games will not be a saving grace for many, but not having to endure 162 games of the Orioles’ predicted futility this season might be a small blessing in disguise. Not that it matters much these days, but the Birds have already had to push their Opening Day starter John Means back due to arm soreness (he was placed on the 10-day IL today). The one guy who showed something last season and was named an All-Star won’t get to be featured in their first game. Instead, Tommy Milone gets to be the answer to an obscure trivia question that will be asked in 15 years at a local pub trivia night.
I don’t particularly care how many games the Orioles win this season, which is a weird thing to even imagine. I’m not openly placing bets on Powerplay for them to secure the top pick in next year’s draft, but I’m not rooting against that either. I also imagine we’re going to see some really bad, but also really surprising performances in a 60-game sprint. I’ll be interested and delighted by whoever might want to stand out and entertain for two months.
5. I’m going to watch every minute of every Orioles game I get a chance to this season, because there’s only so much baseball that will be out there to be had. The weirdness of 2020 has robbed us of a marathon season and given us a sprint. Even if the Orioles go out and only win 15-20 games, I’ll embrace watching baseball because it’s what we have right now. I expect to have to regularly Google the names of players who are brought onto the roster from the taxi squad or the extended player pool, because that’s part of what this season is going to bring.
All the weirdness and awkwardness of a fan of a team trying to learn who the members of the team actually are. It’s part of a rebuild and part of a season that will be heavy on transactions and trips to the injured list that aren’t actually for injuries, but instead illness.
6. The completion of a full 60-game spring still seems like a pipedream to some. But it’s at least going to start, it would appear. It’s going to start in Boston, too, for the first time since 1966. That was a pretty good year in Orioles history, if my record books are to be believed.
But damn the record books for this season. I’m watching it for some entertainment and not expecting anything – good, bad or otherwise – to come of it.
That’s probably the only way I’ll get through it.