Aunt Jane. He also tried to teach me things about hitting and the mind of the hitter.
But it always seemed to come back to San Diego in one way or another.
First, it was those nifty 1974 baseball cards. Then, it was Kevin Eck’s manure brown and mustard hat at Eastpoint Mall in 1979. Then it was a game with my Pop at the ‘Murph in 1985. And, then, with my buds in 1988. And more games and more games with my favorite cousins, Roxanne (my Aunt Jane’s daughter) and her husband Tommy (my all-time favorite relative with the handlebar mustache and the kindness of a perfect California dude) and their daughter Laresa, who, now in her late 20’s, is the little sister I never had. (For the old-school listeners she’s the little girl who got the college tennis scholarship and played four years at Arizona).
My Aunt Jane ALWAYS had a whole week’s worth of The San Diego Union-Tribune and sometimes the Los Angeles Times’ San Diego edition on her kitchen table.
She always made me breakfast and we’d talk sports in her kitchen. I’d read the paper, the bird would chirp and she’d tell me that she didn’t like what was happening with Ken Caminiti or with the Mexican border patrol.
Or that John Moores was the greatest owner in the league. Or that Kevin Towers should’ve made a deadline deal. Or that Bruce Bochy should’ve gotten the starter outta the game at least two batters earlier.
She was a real pip, my Aunt Jane.
And if you didn’t run like hell from her after that, she’d start in on how Clinton screwed the country up or the Kennedy boys or how one of the Bushes was fixing it.
But because there was a solid ex-Oriole connection running rampant through the Padres organization once Larry Lucchino left Baltimore for the West Coast, I always had a way to hook my Aunt Jane up and make her feel special when I came to town.
Charles Steinberg, a former executive from the Orioles, was there for about 10 years once he left Baltimore when Peter Angelos’ group took control in 1994. Fred Uhlman Jr. is still there as the assistant GM to Kevin Towers. Another guy named Eddie Epstein, who worked for the Orioles in 1992, was there through their World Series run in 1998 doing statistical research.
But it was Steinberg who really hooked me up one night with my Aunt Jane.
Early in the 1996 season, I made my way out to visit her and we planned a Sunday night game at the ‘Murph. It was one of those Sunday Night Baseball jobs with Jon Miller and Joe Morgan and it started at 5 p.m. out West. Steinberg hooked me up with his special seats, five rows behind home plate. Denny Neagle, who I also knew because he was from Anne Arundel County, pitched for the Pirates that night and it was just one of those special nights.
We got there early, my Aunt was all geeked up and was wearing makeup (she never wore makeup or much did her hair to hang out with me) and we had these amazing seats and we must’ve eaten four orders of those Rubio’s fish tacos!
At one point she must’ve been thinking about my Pop and she started to cry a little bit.
She just thought it was the greatest thing that I could hook her up with tickets