No spring training for me: O’s produce another “lock-out”

February 11, 2009 | Drew Forrester

A week ago this time, I was excited to announce I was going to take the Comcast Morning Show to Ft. Lauderdale to do five days of radio in late February from the O’s spring training site.  I put together a group of sponsors to bring you “live Grapefruit League coverage”.  The boss had checked off with his approval of my venture.  I would have lined up a twilight round of golf with Peter Schmuck, a night at the dog track with Roch Kubatko and a Chinese lunch with Brent Harris.  And, most importantly, I would have provided all of my (one) listener(s) with in-depth Orioles coverage for the week.

Breaking news: It turns out I’m not going after all.

The Orioles aren’t going to approve my media credential request.  It’s hard to do the show when the team won’t let you in the stadium.  Or return a phone call.  Or reply to an e-mail.

So much for helping to promote the team, the players and the 2009 season.

In this economy, with dollars and expenses tighter than ever before, can you fathom the arrogance it takes for a sports franchise in any league to deny a member of the media access to the team?

Our baseball franchise draws 45,000 fans per-game for 20 home games.  17 of those 20 home games are against the Yankees and Red Sox.  We all know what the make-up of the crowds are at those 17 games. No need to beat that dead horse.

For the other 61 home games, they sell an average of roughly 17,000 tickets per-event – and they’re fortunate if 12,000 fans actually sit in the seats at those 61 games.  I’d venture to say that in 20 of those 61 home games, the grand total of living, breathing human beings in the stadium never reaches five figures.

The game is a wreck, the league and its players have reduced themselves to that of a circus-act and, in Baltimore, specifically, fan disinterest is at an all-time high.  Unfortunately, losing is also at an all-time high in Baltimore.

And yet, somehow, the franchise thinks it’s a smart move to chase away interested members of the media.

I’m not exactly sure who has the FINAL say on my “banning”…obviously, someone in The Warehouse had to put the rubber stamp on it – “Drew does NOT get a media credential at spring training”.  But you never quite get a straight answer from anyone over there, mainly because, you never get an answer of any kind from anyone associated with the team.

It’s beyond frustrating and beyond bush-league.

In fact, to critique this latest act of discrimination as bush-league would be TOO soft.

Speaking of discrimination, I wonder if I have a case?  I’ve done what every other Monday Morning Attorney does these days when they want to know something – I went to the internet.  I googled “Discrimination” and came upon hundreds of web pages dealing with discrimination.  Here’s the official definition if you’d like to review it for yourself.  Along the way, I’m discovering a lot of fascinating – and disturbing – legal angles on the subject of discrimination.

I’m not trying to be Anthony Hopkins in Fracture, but the more I read up on discrimination, the more it appears that this unwarranted “banning” by the Orioles could be a violation of my civil rights. Here’s a very easy-to-read overview of the civil rights issues that are part of various agreements and covenants adhered to by the United States.

I’ll admit I’m just a dumb kid from Glen Burnie and some of that fancy law stuff is way out of my league – but I’ve read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand…I’m not a complete dope.  And the more I brush up on my civil rights, the more I’m thinking that this discrimination vibe I’m feeling shouldn’t be taken lightly.

As far as I know, the Orioles haven’t refused any other media member (except Nestor, of course) access to spring training in 2009. What have I done to deserve that kind of treatment?  They’ve issued me no formal or legal document outlining any kind of complaint or questioning a discrepancy in a story I’ve aired or written about them.

I’m sure I’m on their hit list because they contend I’m “too critical” of the franchise.

They haven’t had a winning season since 1997.  They drew less than 2 million fans in 2008.  Downtown is a half-a-ghost-town on 50% of the nights in which they play.  Those aren’t meant to be low blows…they’re just facts.

They say: I’ve been critical of the Orioles.  I say: I’ve been fair to the Orioles.

Is that to mean if I weren’t “too critical” I’d be given a credential to spring training?

So, is this part of a plot by the team to isolate or discriminate against people in the “class” of media members who are “too critical” of the team?

Or, are there other discrimination factors in play?

Am I banned because, for example, I’m too critical and caucasian?

Am I banned because I’m Lutheran?

Am I banned because I’m from Glen Burnie originally?

Is it possible that I’m being mistreated by the team because of my heritage?

Would I be treated differently by the team if I were too critical but also happened to be, say, Latino? Or Jewish?  Or Greek?

These are things I wonder since I have no other communication or evidence from the team that spells out any kind of dissatisfaction of my work.

Since the Orioles can’t provide me with a legitimate reason why I’m not allowed to attend, cover and work spring training, I’m forced to ponder all of the possible reasons why they’re treating me so unprofessionally.

I don’t know for sure if I’m being discriminated against.  A good attorney (who *ahem* doesn’t want to start the clock and would like to do this for the price-of-on-the-house) could tell me if I am or not.

But it sure FEELS like I’m being discriminated against.

I tried to contact Major League Baseball last week to ask for their assistance in getting to the bottom of this “issue” with the Orioles.

They didn’t get back to me either.

I wonder…would they have made an effort to get involved if I was too critical but, also, a female?  Or Korean?

I wonder.

Just like they’ve done with steroids, Major League Baseball has decided to act like there’s NO problem in Baltimore as it relates to the baseball team and members of the media in town who are treated differently than other media professionals.

You’d think they would be learning daily lessons up there in New York about taking things seriously and not just sweeping issues under the carpet with the assumption that they’ll go away over time.

This treatment from the baseball team in Baltimore has been going on for too long now.  I’ve reached out to Major League Baseball on two occasions – formally – to ask them to intervene and serve as mediator so that we might be able to all sit together in a room and air our respective grievances and develop some sort of working relationship that doesn’t include me being discriminated against by the team.

To sum it up:  I’ve initiated an effort for us to all act like grown men.  Apparently, I’m the only one interested in playing the role of a grown man.

Major League Baseball hasn’t done anything except dodge the issue.

I wonder if they would dodge the issue if an “open” homosexual or lesbian media member who was also part of the too critical-club was being mistreated by one of their teams?

I wonder if, in the end, it’s just easy to mistreat a white, middle-aged male?

These are all civil rights issues that are addressed in any of the thousands of internet case studies that you can find if you have an hour or two to research it all.

In fact, sadly, I have a whole week in late February that I can devote to it since I’m not allowed to cover the Orioles at spring training.

This has been going on for two years now and enough is enough.

It’s not even about covering the team anymore, really…it’s about the Orioles and Major League Baseball acting in concert with one another to restrict my professional duties and benefits without providing the proper (legal) explanation for doing so.

Neither of them, MLB or the O’s, have a higher power to answer to, so they just roll along, armed with the knowledge that they’re essentially untouchable.

Then again, they both have much bigger problems to deal with than me:  A declining economy, sponsors and advertisers sending “Dr. John” letters, steroids and empty seats.

Good luck fixing those issues.

While you all are in repair mode, I’ll do my best not to be too critical.

Maybe next year I can join the rest of the people in my profession and cover the team like the rest of them.

That is, if I’m allowed.

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