Game 162

Game 162.

The last three Orioles seasons have had very different Game 162’s, both professionally for the team and personally.

In October 2010, newly hired manager Buck Showalter took a team that was horrific from April through the end of July and begin instilling his philosophies, work ethic, and establishing the faith in core players such as Nick Markakis and Adam Jones, that they are indeed good enough to suceed. The O’s finished August and September 34–24, something that no one in their right mind thought was possible.

The final series of 2010 was against a lame duck opponent in the Tigers. A four game series set for Thursday through Sunday had to be shortened due to a rain out on Thursday, making Friday’s game a single admission double header. The O’s took both games of the double header and went on to win Saturday Night’s game behind a great start from Brian Matusz.

Game 162? A little bit of a let down as the Tigers ended the season with a win. Game 162 is often melancholy for many baseball fans because the true season of baseball is over for another year. Yea, the playoffs are all well and good, but to live with your team for 162 games is the ultimate sports grind.

Paul and I were at all four games for the end of 2010. Looking back, the finale on Sunday didn’t feel right for a number of reasons. Beyond the experience of ordering a turkey sandwich at Boog’s, only to get what was a mixture of Turkey and Ham (hint: Boog’s doesn’t serve ham, but I ate ham that day) was only a minor issue compared to what was going to happen over the next 11 months in my personal life.

As an O’s fan, I was extremely excited to see what Buck could do with the team in 2011. But that excitement was stomped out quickly by 11 months of hell that I experienced in my personal life through the end of September 2011. Maybe someday I’ll write about the parallels between that and the Orioles as it would make for a good story but not today.

The 2011 season paralleled how I was feeling away from Camden Yards in more ways than one. A miserable June through August secured a losing season but then September came and for one time in the prior 14 seasons, the Orioles manager had not lost the team in September. The O’s battled all month, taking two out of three from contending teams in the Rays and Angels, splitting a four game road trip to contender Detroit, and most importantly, taking five out of seven, including three out of four on the road against the collapsing Red Sox.

Our worst nightmare but ultimate reward lay before Paul and I on Monday, September 26 as we headed down to OPACY for the final series of the year. Fan appreciation series with the Red Sox and their arrogant fans in town? Not something to look forward to. It had been in the back of my mind all season. But now the stakes were even higher. The Orioles could play a major role in determining the fate of the 2011 MLB season.

On Monday at work, I had maybe the worst morning I had ever experienced to the point where I knew some changes needed to be made and made quickly. None of this related to the Orioles play but to things more important in life. By noon, I was a tired, angry, frustrated, and sad. And I still had a tough work meeting in the afternoon and then had to go to put up with the Red Sox idiots at what has become my second home.

But the tide started to turn with the work meeting, one which I was dreading, turned out to go very well. There aren’t coincidences in life and I firmly believe that everything does happen for a reason, even if you never get to truley understand why it happens. But a meeting that should have been a disaster turned out to be okay. I couldn’t see it at the time, but it was obviously the beginning of the light at the end of the tunnel for my personally.

I got home that night and had to pysch myself up. I’ll never claim that as a fan we have it harder than the players, but until you experience the Red Sox fans onslaught of Camden Yards from 2007 to 2011, you don’t know how draining an experience each game can be from a fan perspective. Just trying to drown out the obnoxious “Let’s Go Red Sox” chants is an effort in itself.

Fast forward three plus hours later and the Orioles had defeated the Red Sox, while the Rays had beat the Yankees and the Red Sox wild card lead was erased. I left the stadium that night on a high that I imagine is what most dope fiends are aiming for with every needle into their arm. The Orioles, a team that everyone had ignored for 14 years, was taking it to a team whose payroll was only second to the Yankees and was predicted by every baseball analyst to be the frontrunner for the division. We all know how well those predictions turn out.

Tuesday Night, despite losing 8–7, was maybe even better as the O’s and their fans battled for 9 innings and the Red Sox barely escaped. The Rays beat the Yankees again and everything was all tied up going into 162.

I don’t need to recap September 28, 2011. It’s well documented on this web site and other baseball outlets. But regardless of its significance to me as a fan and personally, it was the beginning of a long and profound change in my life, a journey which is still in progress but is very far from those bleak days of October 2010 through August 2011.

Tonight is Game 162 and the meaning is even more increased. The O’s win and they get to come back to Baltimore for at least one more game on Friday. If the Yankees lose, they get to come back a day early to play for the division in Game 163. But like myself, the Orioles hold their path to success in their own hands. This team has been ballsy, full of character and determination, and eager to stick to one goal all season long and see it through to the end.

One more game.

I have no doubt they can do this.

(And I have no doubt that I will continue to keep getting better as well)