Free The Birds

May 07, 2010 | Paul Hoke

When Nestor announced the initial Free The Birds rally in 2006, I was all for it.  The problem was, I couldn’t get the day off of work to go to the game.  I remember sitting in my car at work listening to the game, and I had equal feelings of pride and regret, as I could hear the throng of “Free the Bird” fans cheering almost as loud as Joe Angel called the game.  The regret came from the fact that I couldn’t be with my “countrymen”.

This time, however…I’m off May 17th.  And I plan on attending this event.

I was sitting at my kitchen table a couple nights ago talking to my wife about this and that, and I brought up the Free the Birds night.  My wife, in her sarcastic little way, asked me, “why, are they in jail.”  I thought about it for a minute and chuckled.  Because, even though she was trying (and failing) to be funny, my wife hit the nail right on the head.  Yes, the Orioles are in proverbial jail.  And Peter Angelos is the warden.

Now look, I have no “delusions of grandeur” as someone once said about Nestor and his band of followers, of which I’m a happy member.  I know King Peter isn’t going to sell the team.  I know there’s no one who would buy it right now anyway.  All I want, is what every REAL Baltimore Orioles fan wants….I want my team back.  It can happen under the ownership of King Peter.  The problem is, it would mean King Peter having to change about 70% of how he conducts daily business inside the warehouse.  And I don’t think that’s possible.  King Peter’s ego will never allow him to admit that he’s been wrong the past dozen or so years.  And that this contingent of, whatever it was he called us 4 years ago, have been right all along, and he is going to do all he can to change the course and direction of this franchise.  Will never happen.   But back to the point of this blog…

I have a 10 year old son that is absolutely in love with baseball and the Orioles.  I’ve written this before, but it is an important part of why I’m going to the game on the 17th.  Brian Roberts is his favorite player and he loved hearing the news that Miguel Tejada was coming back this past offseason.  He has no opinion on steroids or HGH, he just loves this game and this team.  He reminds me of me at his age.  I lived, ate, drank, and slept Orioles.  Partly because we didn’t have a football team and the Capitals always seemed to be snake-bitten.  But mostly because 20-30 times a year, my dad and I would trek five minutes from our house to that great old ballpark on 33rd Street (God I miss that stadium) and watch our orange and black.  Of course, by the time I was 10, the Birds had won one World Series, been to another, and were still significant.  My son has yet to see winning baseball, which is really sad when I think on it.  He was born two days before Cal Ripken got his 3,000th hit.  I remember holding him in my arms from our room at GBMC that night Cal got that hit in the Metrodome.  I remember his first Orioles’ onesie.  Anyone with kids knows exactly what a onesie is.  I remember the first time he was old enough to understand exactly what baseball was and why daddy loved the Orioles.  And he loved them too, because the were daddy’s team.  I also remember taking him to his first Orioles’ game on April 30, 2005.  I kick myself for waiting until he was 5 to take him to a ballgame.  After all, my dad started me young.  Allegedly, I was at 1977′s “Thanks Brooks” game, when I was pushing 2 years old, but I don’t remember that.  Anyway, the O’s behind a strong outing from Sidney Ponson, beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at my son’s first game.  Sadly, they’ve been few and far between since then.  Part of the reason is the financial aspect.  Long gone are the days when I could go to 20 O’s games in a year.  But even more so, is the fact that I’m one of the diehard, orange-blooded fans that this organization has driven away.  And it’s not just the losing that has driven me away, even though that definitely a “slice of the pizza” so to speak.  Hell, there were some pretty bad teams in the late 80′s and early 90′s.  Remember the “Collapse of 1986″ when we sat just two and a half games behind the Red Sox in August?  I do.  I remember listening to doubleheader the Birds dropped to the Oakland Athletics which started the downward spiral.  There was the 95-loss 1987 season, followed up by 0-21 and the 107-loss 1988 season.  It’s not the losing that has driven me away.  It’s the way this organization treats its fans, the city, and the true media members that has soured me.  But my son doesn’t understand any of that.  He just wonders why daddy doesn’t take him to Orioles’ games anymore (we haven’t been to a game since 2007).  And that’s why I’m taking him to Free the Birds.

So he can experience a baseball game with the same group of people that I did when I was his age….good, decent, baseball fans who love the Orioles and only want to see them get better, from the top down.  Now I know that this organization isn’t going to improve between now and May 17th.  But what I want to do for my son is hopefully surround him in an atmosphere that he has never experienced.  The good old days of 33rd Street.  Forgetting for one night that Andy MacPhail hasn’t signed a legitimate free agent yet.  Forgetting that King Peter is a jackass who cares about nothing besides making money.  Forgetting that Garrett Atkins is a terrible baseball player, and the surcharge you have to pay to go to a ballgame on gameday may just be the spit to the face a baseball fan could endure.  For one night, all their transgressions will be put on the back burner.  Not forgotten completely, but put out of mind.  I’m doing this for my son.  Because he loves baseball, loves the Orioles, and just wants to go to a ballgame.

And, listen up Orioles…if you screw up my son’s experience because you want to sabotage Nestor or WNST’s Free the Birds night, I swear I will write you off completely…that would be the last straw.

In the words of Glenn Clark…”Orioles, you’ve been put on watch.”

And that’s why I’m taking him to Free the Birds.

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