Tag Archive | "major league baseball"

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Remembering Only “Magic” I’ve Known

Posted on 15 July 2011 by Glenn Clark

I know just how frustrating the 2011 season has been for Baltimore Orioles fans.

I also know how frustrating the 2010 season was. And 2009. And 2008. And 2007. And 2006. And…I think you get the point.

I was born on September 6, 1983. Just over a month later (October 16) the O’s vanquished the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 5 to claim their third (and still most recent) World Series title. Despite being alive for 40 days when it happened, I’m ashamed to say I have no memories of the title.

The 1989 Birds were a special group. I’ve watched the “Why Not” video a number of times in my life, mostly thanks to my friends BJ and Chris Appel. While they finished short of winning the American League East crown, the team has left many folks in Charm City with special memories.

Unfortunately, I had just turned six years old when the season was cut short. My memories of the ’89 Orioles are extremely limited, and the team itself really didn’t mean much to me as a baseball fan.

I’ve made it quite clear that I am much more of a lacrosse person than I am a baseball person. I’ve made it obvious that certain things about baseball in recent years have made me turn from the game. That’s been made worse by the fact that the team here in Baltimore has given me almost nothing to enjoy for nearly 15 years now. Like many other fans in this city, the demise of our own team has lead to a lessened interested in the sport in general.

That wasn’t the case in 1996.

My 12th birthday was September 5, 1995. It was a special day to be an Orioles fan (like I need to tell you) as Cal Ripken passed Lou Gehrig by playing in his 2,131st consecutive game. My parents were kind enough to purchase me EXACTLY what I wanted for my birthday that year-an oversized Orioles “Starter” brand jacket.

(I know I wasn’t the only one who wore a Starter jacket at the time.)

I’m pretty sure I didn’t take that jacket off for two years-even in the summer.

Baseball was my most significant love in 1996. The Ravens came into existence during the offseason but wouldn’t “take over” the city for another three to four years. In fact, as rabid as we were in Baltimore for the return of the NFL, there were multiple games between Memorial Stadium and what was then known as PSINet Stadium in the early years of the Ravens’ existence that were “sold out”, but featured less than empty crowds.

It was a baseball town, and I loved the Orioles more than I even loved girls.

One of the most exciting moments of my life was the day I found out Home Team Sports (HTS) had been moved from the “premium” tier of Comcast programming in Baltimore County and instead became a basic cable channel.

I was that crazy about the Orioles.

In 8th grade, I was often caught not paying attention to teachers in class. While other kids were writing love notes, I was found to be drawing miniature baseball diamonds and impressing my friends with my ability to name the starting nine for every other team in Major League Baseball.

I was a complete and total nutjob when it came to baseball.

I’m not sure I can fairly explain how much those 1996 & 1997 teams meant to me as I hit puberty. My entire attitude was determined by what the Orioles had done the night before.

I still remember coming home from Perry Hall High School one late fall afternoon in 1995 to have my dad tell me the Orioles had signed Roberto Alomar. I didn’t believe him at first, but ultimately celebrated as if I had received straight A’s on my report card.

The 1996 & 1997 Orioles gave me some of the happiest memories of my life as a sports fan. They also of course gave me some of the saddest memories of my life, as they failed to advance past the ALCS in both years.

As far as “Orioles Magic” is concerned, the only thing I REALLY know about “magic” for the Orioles franchise happened during those two seasons.

I’ve explained my excitement about Alomar’s impending induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame many times. Part of my identity as a Baltimore sports personality is tied to my affection to the man who will take his place in Cooperstown next weekend.

I find it fitting that as Alomar enters the Hall of Fame, he will share the stage with the architect of those Orioles teams, former General Manager Pat Gillick. Gillick’s career is directly tied to Alomar, having brought the second baseman to the Toronto Blue Jays, where the pair would win two World Series titles. Gillick would go on to bring Alomar to Baltimore, where he would lead the O’s to their only Wild Card playoff berth and their first AL East crown in 14 seasons.

My guess is that most of the coverage surrounding next weekend’s induction ceremony will be about the time Alomar and Gillick shared with the Jays. But for Orioles fans, next weekend’s ceremony will be a reminder of a special (albeit short) era of success in Baltimore.

It’s with that in mind that I am happy to announce that Thyrl Nelson and I have come together to dedicate next Friday’s (7/22) edition of “The Mobtown Sports Beat” to the 1996 & 1997 Baltimore Orioles.

We’ll use the show to congratulate Alomar and Gillick on entering the Hall of Fame, as well as to honor the teams that were truthfully the most special in my lifetime.

We’ll talk to players, coaches, broadcasters and even fans who were around those teams. Some interviews will be live, some will be taped earlier in the week. As guests continue to confirm, I’ll do my best to pass them along.

Older Orioles fans might not look back on the ’96 and ’97 with the same fondness that I do. But this is all I’ve known of winning baseball in Baltimore…well…ever.

It’s going to be a lot of fun. I hope you’ll tune in next Friday to AM1570 WNST or online at WNST.net to join in the celebration. I hope you’ll chime in with calls, emails, Tweets (@WNST or @GlennClarkWNST on Twitter), Facebook messages and other memories of those teams.

It’s the only “Magic” I’ve ever experienced, and it doesn’t look like it will be changing soon.

(Eds. Note: A previous version of this post mistakenly stated the Ravens had experienced “multiple blackouts” in their early years.)

-G

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Morning Reaction Tuesday Top 7: Things In Sports We Can Simply Do Without

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Morning Reaction Tuesday Top 7: Things In Sports We Can Simply Do Without

Posted on 12 July 2011 by Glenn Clark

This week’s Tuesday Top 7 was dedicated to the great Chris Berman from ESPN. As I was following on Twitter Monday night while watching the Home Run Derby, I was reminded that I wasn’t the only person watching that was simply tired of the Chris Berman “shtick.”

With that in mind, our Tuesday Top 7 topic was “The Top 7 Things In Sports We Can Simply Do Without.” Self-explanatory, yes?

Glenn Clark’s list…

7. Colin Cowherd

cowherd

6. Having 50 different “cups” in soccer

argentina

5. NBA players getting out of the way so they don’t get dunked on

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bYSHu9ylMc[/youtube]

4. “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” anywhere but Wrigley Field

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvZkst884XM&feature=related[/youtube]

3. Preseason All-Conference teams

dob

2. The 4th NFL preseason game

ravensrams

1. Major League Baseball’s “unwritten rules”

greggortiz

Drew Forrester’s list…

7. Day long Super Bowl pre-game show

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpU2W4pRnIM[/youtube]

6. Stalling in lacrosse

laxstalling

5. Tampering rule in NFL preventing you from discussing free agents

nnamdi

4. One stroke penalty for hitting ball out of bounds in golf

oob

3. MLB “Umpire Snobbery”

umpire

2. Baltimore Colts recognized as Indianapolis Colts at Pro Football Hall of Fame

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ruZsHhFXKw[/youtube]

1. Guaranteed multi-year contracts

ramirez

If you missed the explanation of why these players made the list on “The Morning Reaction” Tuesday on AM1570 WNST, hit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net!

Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…

-G

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I thought Adrian Gonzalez was boycotting Arizona …..

Posted on 12 July 2011 by Rex Snider

Before you start reading this blog, be assured of one thing; it has NOTHING to do with politics, immigration issues or Supreme Court decisions.  But, is has everything to do with holding athletes accountable for their words and actions.

A little more than a year ago, Adrian Gonzalez drew a line in the sand at the Arizona/Nevada border, or was it the Arizona/California border?  What the heck, I don’t know.  But, he did go public in proclaiming he would BOYCOTT the 2011 All Star Game, if selected to play in it.

Gonzalez’s reasoning was pointedly specific; he disagreed with Arizona’s new laws pertaining to illegal immigration and law enforcement’s investigative powers.

I thoroughly respect anyone’s opinions on just about anything.  And, I certainly believe Adrian Gonzalez is entitled to feel the way he feels about issues close to his heart.

But, when he opens his mouth and uses his stature as a pro athlete to make a stance and ultimate statement on a political issue, it’s done with a calculated purpose.  He knew those comments would fuel public reaction and he trusted such words would have an impact on the All Star Game’s destined unveiling in Phoenix.

Like many celebrities, Adrian Gonzalez ignorantly assumed his presence or threatened lack of presence would in some way handicap an industry’s showcase event.  He was wrong …..

Be clear about one thing – he wasn’t WRONG for feeling the way he felt – he was WRONG, because he entrusted the image of Adrian Gonzalez to be as big as the game.

And, it’s not.

Somewhere, somehow, Gonzalez came to an evident grip with his own reality and true appeal to the landscape of our pro sports culture.  While a distinct few personalities can impact an event, with their absence, he’s not one of them.

No single player is bigger than their game.

Adrian Gonzalez has obviously learned such a lesson and swallowed a little humble pie without much notice paid by the people who foot the bills; the fans.  Last night, he appeared at the Homerun Derby and gave those same fans the only real thing demanded, expected and desired of him.

He hit baseballs. 

Nothing more, nothing less.

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Yankees swindle a 23 year old kid who loves baseball …..

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Yankees swindle a 23 year old kid who loves baseball …..

Posted on 11 July 2011 by Rex Snider

Indeed, we are upon that time of summer when Baltimore’s baseball fans must start looking elsewhere for compelling storylines and boxscores.  I suppose spinning the recent Orioles vs. Red Sox series into a “beanball war” might drum a little interest, but do any of us really think the birds were a formidable opponent?

Of course not …..

But, as I’ve suggested, plenty of intriguing stories did result from a mid-July weekend of baseball.

Perhaps, the most notable was the goodwill gesture emerging from Yankee Stadium.  After weeks of awaiting the historical significance of Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit, it finally happened on Saturday night.

And, as if the moment was written from fictional lore, #3000 came in the form of a homerun. 

Oh yeah, it gets even better – schmoozier and more heartwarming …..

The fan who caught the ball, Christian Lopez, quickly came to grips with the most fitting destination for the historical baseball …..

Cooperstown?  Nope.

The Lopez family keepsake collection?  Nope.

A safety deposit box?  Once again, no.

Mr. Lopez decided the baseball was destined to be personal property of Derek Jeter, because “he worked so hard for it …. The ball should be his.”

I don’t deny, nor dispute Christian Lopez’s love for the game of baseball and the purity that accompanies being a fan of the sport.  But, I do question if he made the right decision and if the process in rendering such a quick conclusion is prudent for all parties involved.

That baseball is worth a LOT of money.  Conservative estimates by notable collectable experts valued it at a minimum of $250,000 or a cool quarter of a million bucks …..

That’s serious cash, huh?

Yet, in the spontaneous passion of the moment, the 23 year old man who coincidentally donned the same hat worn by Jeter, decided to hand the keepsake over to the Yankees shortstop.

.

.

In exchange, he received tickets for the remainder of the season, along with articles of memorabilia.

Was it a fair deal?  That’s up to Christian Lopez …..

But, I’ll assert one very important consideration – it’s a deal and agreement that should’ve been discussed the following day.

Too many emotional and perhaps, personally inhibiting factors exist in the immediate moments following such a historical incident.

The fan is caught up in the massive celebration that accompanies the moment.  Such recipients are quickly sequestered from the ensuing bombardment of fellow fanatics.  That’s a good decision, because somebody will do everything in their power to steal that baseball.

I’m absolutely in support of ushering guys in the shoes of Christian Lopez away from the masses of gawkers, hawkers and stalkers …..

But, a more intriguing reason for getting the guy away from others is team officials want to “negotiate” or lean on them for a quick exchange of the ball for some trinkets and fodder.  Why not toss in a few bottles of whiskey and some beads, too?

After all, that’s the legitimacy and hoodwinking credibility that goes into such a transaction.

I’m not privy to Mr. Lopez’s financial status, although, he said he has plenty of time to make the money and he doesn’t really need it …..

Really?

How many 23 year olds (or thereabouts) do we know who couldn’t tangibly benefit from a $250,000 windfall?

Marston Hefner?  Taylor Swift?  Sam Bradford?

I look at a select group of young men who I would put into a situation just as Christian Lopez found himself on Saturday evening.  I’ll consider WNST’s Ryan Chell, Luke Jones and Glenn Clark …..

These guys love sports.  Heck, they eat, sleep and breath sports.  And, I can picture all three of them being caught up in a moment of significance at a sporting event.  Furthermore, I can reasonably picture each of them coughing up a valuable memento in the HEAT OF THE MOMENT.

They love Baltimore and the Orioles, for better or worse.

But, each of them could greatly benefit from $250, 000 …..

Better yet, $250,000 could and would impact their lives to a much greater extent than any gesture of gratitude from the Orioles or a legendary player.

Name it, buying a first house, paying off student loans or simply getting ahead in this dismal economy, each of these young men would be far better off by selling such a keepsake.  But, in the moments following their nabbing of history, I can envision them getting swindled – by a tugging of the heartstrings.

What are the chances Christian Lopez had a couple beers on Saturday evening – prior to the big moment?  I would reckon such odds are pretty good.  If so, a whole new can of worms opens up, if you get my drift …..

Let’s just call it like it is …..

The moment was a true piece of history.  That’s why Major League Baseball manufactured “special baseballs” when Jeter stood in the box for his 3000th hit.  That’s why a World Series atmosphere existed at Yankee Stadium on a muggy Saturday, in July.

The Yankees brass, like any other organization, knew the best chances of getting that baseball from the grip of Christian Lopez was RIGHT THEN and RIGHT THERE.  So, they took advantage of the circumstances.

In reality, and in legitimate surroundings, a “cool off” period should exist …..

The team should make contact with the fan and go thru the measurable steps to ensure the ball is secured.  They should even offer to put it in a safe deposit box for 24 or 48 hours.

If the fan really feels the player should have the ball, than so be it.  Will a “cool off” period change such heart driven feelings?  I wouldn’t think so.

What’s wrong with Yankees officials urging Lopez to talk with his parents?  Yeah, I know he’s an adult, but how many 23 year olds still seek the wisdom of a mother or father under such weighty situations?

Call it like it is, Saturday night’s festivities might appear to be one of those legendary fan and player symbolic exchanges.  But, the truth is the Yankees took every advantage of a 23 year old kid who loves baseball.

And, that’s wrong.

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MLB Draft: high school talent can be undeniable

Posted on 08 June 2011 by Rex Snider

In the wake of Baltimore’s selection of Dylan Bundy, in Monday’s first round of the Major League Baseball draft, a noticeable amount of Orioles fans and followers have openly questioned the reasoning of the choice.

And, in like many circumstances, it seems like some “catch phrases” and overblown beliefs are spreading like a bad cold. Some of the things we’ve heard, include:

“we need a college player, because they’re more Major League ready”

“we don’t know how a high school player will develop”

“a college player is closer to being a sure thing”

This particular blog is not invested in trying to shoot down or discount any of the above suggestions. To a point, each phrase has its own merit and can be attributed to failures of past draft picks.

However, a more significant reality exists …..

Each player drafted atop any respective class can best be described as an individual freak of nature. They possess physical skill sets and a hand/eye coordination that exceeds a level most of us could ever fathom.

In being individuals, they also have respective levels of intelligence, discipline, maturity and abilities to lead or succeed in a competitive environment. To a degree, some of these qualities can be attributed to age, and the difference between 18 and 22 can be a distinguishing window of growth and development.

Far more humans make better, wiser decisions when they’re four years removed from their 18th birthdays. Young men can and will make stupid decisions off and on the baseball field.

Just consider Bryce Harper’s antics after homering on Monday evening ……

That said, each player is different and there really is no foolproof mathematical or scientific gauge for determining whether an 18 year old is going to fail in comparison to a player a few years older.

I don’t care about overall statistics regarding demographics. Each player is different, with respective personal physical qualities and character traits. Dismissing a player from consideration, simply because they’re a high school athlete is near-sighted and a disservice to the future of the organization.

After all, past history suggests high school players can and will succeed at the highest level. Consider this list of former high school athletes drafted within the last 15 years:

Wade Davis, John Danks, Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels, Jon Lester, Josh Johnson, Matt Cain, Matt Latos, Jeremy Hellickson, Clayton Kershaw, Trevor Cahill, Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Josh Beckett, Tommy Hanson, Phil Hughes, Chad Billingsley, Jonathan Broxton, Gavin Floyd and Zach Britton

Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Jay Bruce, Stephen Drew, Adam Jones, Prince Fielder, James Loney, Denard Span, Brian McCann, Joe Mauer, David Wright, Adrian Gonzalez, Grady Sizemore, Josh Hamilton, Alex Rios, Carl Crawford, Brandon Phillips, Justin Morneau, Adam Dunn, Jayson Werth, Vernon Wells and Jimmy Rollins

Trust me, in the above lists, I omitted a plethora of average players – meaning guys who have been sporadic contributors, or those who experienced a rather common existence in the big leagues. But, many of them still made an impact on the game.

The message I’m trying to convey is each player is unique and plenty of pedigree exists at the high school level. There is no certain formula or recipe to determining whether an amateur player will convey to the highest level of baseball.

If an organization commits to selecting the given players possessing the most upside, with blended character traits, the best likelihood for success exists. It is what it is …..

As we stand here today, I like the Bundy pick, regardless of anything else.

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Here are 5 ways to improve the MLB draft ….

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Here are 5 ways to improve the MLB draft ….

Posted on 06 June 2011 by Rex Snider

Tonight, when the clock strikes 6pm, Major League Baseball’s Studio-42 will become abuzz with excitement as the first player selected in the 2011 edition of the amateur draft is announced.

And, for sporadic moments shortly thereafter, some emphasis of attention will re-focus to the MLB epicenter, in Secaucus, New Jersey, as subsequent “high profile” players are awarded to a collection of the worst teams in the game.

Sounds compelling, huh?

Perhaps, you can already assess the problem, or perceived problem of relevance, by simply recollecting what you’ve already read. Indeed, if we’re searching for a way to improve or publicize Major League Baseball’s version of ushering in tomorrow’s superstars, some of the clues can be found in the above text.

Where is Secaucus? It’s located just few miles outside Manhattan, between the Lincoln Tunnel and Meadowlands sports complex. But, don’t think you’ll ever be making a roadtrip to personally observe a draft unfold.

After all, Studio-42 has a measly capacity of 95. That’s right, under ideal circumstances, only 95 patrons, contest winners or special invitees would be able to attend the annual event. So much for fans making a pilgrimage, huh?

By the way, who are those “high profile” players I cited a few paragraphs ago? I know the names of the prime prospects atop the rankings, but I wouldn’t criticize your expertise for not knowing such personas.

Yet, from a public exposure perspective, the reality attached to the sport’s fanbase not knowing, nor really caring about the names of top amateur talents is a fundamental problem, when trying to solve the indifference fans feel toward the draft, or in remedying this non-event.

I understand the challenge and by all means, I concede Major League Baseball will never rival the coverage and celebrations regarding draft-day hype enjoyed by the NFL and NBA communities.

Gerrit Cole cannot claim the intramural stage dominated by Cam Newton, and the same applies to Anthony Rendon and Greg Odon. The same can be said about the nation’s best high school prospect, Dylan Bundy, as nobody outside Oklahoma knew his name just a few months ago.

We know the deal; NCAA football and basketball are much more popular than baseball, as part of the American sports scene. The game of baseball has a genuine appeal that is uniquely limited to the very highest talent, in the big leagues, or if we have a loved one playing at a lesser level.

That’s the truth.

To be blunt, I don’t know if Major League Baseball can transition its draft day festivities into a product most fans and insiders would wanna witness. But, I can think of five distinct ideas that would make the event more appealing.

You can find my five ideas on the next page …..

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Lack of Reverence For Preakness in Baltimore Appalling

Posted on 20 May 2011 by Glenn Clark

The Preakness Stakes will never mean to Baltimore what the Kentucky Derby means to Louisville.

I will start my thoughts by offering an acceptance of that fact.

I couldn’t honestly say I understood the difference between the two Triple Crown races until attending my first “Run For The Roses” in 2010. It’s a different world. It truly cannot be replicated in Charm City.

Perhaps veteran horse racing columnist Jerry Izenberg of the Newark Star-Ledger said it best in 2010…

“Here in Crab Cake City, there is one thing that all of them — infielder, grandstander and the jacket-and-tie set, that actually know the words to “Maryland, My Maryland” — have in common. They all know how to treat a horse race like, well, a horse race.

Greater Baltimore is too big and too honest, and its people work too hard and wear out too many blue collars for it to be otherwise. It understands exactly what this race is. It is a break in the calendar when the Orioles will not be the lead story. It is an event that the town respects but does not worship.”

It’s hard to argue his point.

In fact, year after year the romanticism and celebration of the “Run for the Black-Eyed Susans” appears to be lessened throughout the city.

It’s not just because patrons were barred from bringing their own alcohol into the infield, either.

The fact is that it is safe to question at this point whether or not Baltimore truly even “respects” the Preakness, more or less reveres the city’s most significant event.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrN1NyHEiis[/youtube]

According to the Baltimore Sun, the 2010 Preakness spending generated roughly $1.3 million in 2010 in state and local taxes. The event was as significant if not more to area businesses including hotels, restaurants, bars, taxi and limo services, entertainment venues and grocery/convenience stores.

What can’t be measured beyond that is the value brought to the area by the exposure that comes with Preakness. NBC and VERSUS will combine to dedicate nearly eight hours of coverage this weekend from Old Hilltop, while HRTV and ESPN have also reported and broadcast from the track this week as well.

The Maryland Jockey Club said over 1,000 media members were credentialed for this year’s event, generating coverage in newspapers and on websites throughout the country and the world.

There is simply no arguing the significance of Baltimore’s biggest annual event.

While an argument could be made that a Baltimore Ravens playoff game could provide nearly as much exposure for the city, it would be difficult to picture a NFL game reaching the vast demographic group that the Preakness is able to touch.

Baltimore’s most significant annual moment happens just off Northern Parkway on the third Saturday of May.

As Bob Ehrlich told Drew Forrester this week in an interview on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST, “For me, (the Preakness) was a wonderful day. It’s the best day of the year to be governor.”

Or as Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake told Rex Snider in an interview on “The Afternoon Drive” also on AM1570 WNST, “It really gives us a chance to showcase the city in a big way.”

It is hard to imagine a resident of our fair city not understanding how significant Preakness Saturday is annually.

Imagine my frustration when I was asked this question by a friend (and lifelong Baltimore resident) recently:

Everyone is getting together at Riverwatch for dinner Saturday because Tuesday is my birthday. You’ll be there, right?

After allowing the bewildered look to finally disappear from my face, I had my own question for my friend:

You’re aware they didn’t cancel the Preakness this year, right?

Even more troubling at the same time was my realization that the Baltimore Orioles were not only playing at home, but they were playing at 4:05pm.

Given that the average Major League Baseball game lasts two hours and fifty-one minutes (according to MLB.com in 2010) and the post time for the 136th running of the Preakness Stakes is 6:19pm-a conflict exists.

A source from the Maryland Jockey Club (who asked not to be identified) told me that the MJC reached out to the O’s after learning of the scheduling conflict, but the club deferred to Major League Baseball. Emails sent to the Orioles and MLB requesting further comment were not returned.

To be fair, the Orioles have to play on the third Saturday of May. But in the last 10 years, the Orioles have not played a game that directly conflicted with the Preakness despite playing seven times at home on Preakness Saturday.

It seems stunning that the Birds (and Major League Baseball) would allow a game to go off at the same time as the city’s signature event instead of altering the time of the game. The Boston Red Sox play an 11am game annually at Fenway Park as part of the city’s “Patriots Day” celebration. The Orioles could start at a similar time on Preakness Saturday to make way for Preakness, or could start later in the evening (around 8pm) to allow fans to attend both events.

In fact, they could even label the game as “the official post-Preakness party” and offer ticket discounts to attendees of the Preakness should they work in concert with the Jockey Club.

It would be the type of arrangement that could perhaps encourage out of town enthusiasts to “make a day of it” in Baltimore, seeing the sights of one of America’s classic sporting events and also viewing breathtaking Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

It’s a shame the city hasn’t worked with both parties to encourage such a partnership.

But the lack of reverence towards the Preakness in Baltimore is more appalling than even a baseball game.

Many Baltimoreans have simply told me in recent weeks that they feel no connection with the event despite understanding the overall significance of the event.

The reality is that some Baltimoreans are simply more interested in other events.

The problem with that attitude is that Baltimore doesn’t have anything else this significant. There is no PGA Tour stop. There is no LPGA, ATP, WTA Tour stop either.

The NBA & NHL Playoffs are irrelevant in Baltimore unless a fan chooses to root for a team from out of town. The NCAA Tournament might include a team from Baltimore, but the days of Tim Duncan and company playing March Madness games on the floor of what is now known as the 1st Mariner Arena have long passed.

The UFC has never staged a major Mixed Martial Arts event in Baltimore. There hasn’t been a significant prize fight in Baltimore in my lifetime. NASCAR has never come to town, and while the IndyCar series will hold the inaugural “Baltimore Grand Prix” in Baltimore this Labor Day weekend, the event has exactly enough significance that it was not picked up by the series’ network partner (ABC).

The Baltimore Ravens have never played more than nine meaningful home games in a season. The Baltimore Orioles haven’t played a significant home game after Opening Day since 1997.

In Baltimore, we have the Preakness and not much else.

But there’s no reason for that to be so depressing.

It would certainly bode well for the event if the sport of horse racing could make a “comeback” in Charm City. Pimlico has been outdated about as long as the Arena has, and it doesn’t serve well to generate excitement. The fact that racing only happens at the track for about a month out of the year hurts too.

No one has to be a horse racing fan to support Preakness, however.

The majority of the 100,000 or so fans that pack the track Saturday will likely not know the names of more than a few horses running in the actual race and even fewer could quickly answer “Lookin At Lucky” if asked who won last year’s event.

That being said, the folks who attend the event are at least expecting a good time-whether they’re watching Train on the infield or screaming at ponies from the grandstand.

There’s nothing wrong with being a Baltimorean and not attending the Preakness. The dirty secret in Louisville is that more locals actually attend Kentucky Oaks day on Friday than the actual Derby. (Which is aided by the closure of schools, government and many offices in general). The simple idea is that the city should somehow partake in the event in general-or at least feel more positive than negative energy in association with the event.

At the very least, everyone in Baltimore should ABSOLUTELY know that the third Saturday of May is Preakness Saturday.

It’s a shame that isn’t currently true.

-G

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Jackie Robinson’s legacy; MLB fails to challenge its own culture

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Jackie Robinson’s legacy; MLB fails to challenge its own culture

Posted on 18 April 2011 by Rex Snider

My time in this world as a parent and mentor has yielded some important life lessons regarding human nature. Foremost among such realities is the certainty that trying to compel anyone to do anything is a shortsighted, if not futile effort.

We cannot force someone to gain more knowledge and insight.

We cannot force someone to embrace their heritage and history.

We cannot force someone to respect and honor those who are different.

The ability to do all of these things is within each of us. But, forcing anyone to participate in a specific endeavor undermines the importance of that issue and it cheapens any legendary significance attached to it.

This is exactly how I view a particular component of Major League Baseball’s annual celebration of Jackie Robinson Day …..

While I recognize the worthwhile concept and overall gesture associated with having every big league player/coach wear a #42 jersey on April 15th, I also believe it amounts to a form of faux remembrance.

My hunch is if everyone in uniform was honest about this annual form of remembrance, some of them would undoubtedly voice a dissent in wearing any number other than their own. Some don’t care and some probably want the freedom of making their own choice.

But, more importantly, I suspect the requirement of wearing #42 on April 15th, serves as a convenient “obligation fulfilled” excuse for many players. While they might be inspired to do something more meaningful in expressing racial equality, they’ll simply say “hey, I’m wearing the jersey …. I celebrated the day.”

I wonder how many ballplayers really know the life history of Jack Roosevelt Robinson? How many of them have learned about his struggles and more importantly, the essence of his strengths?

If each Major League player walked into their respective clubhouses today and found a pop quiz regarding Jackie Robinson in their lockers, how many of them would achieve a passing grade?

If players were honest with themselves and us about the constructive use of their time in participating in endeavors aimed at defeating bigotry and ignorance, how many of them could claim a tangible hand in such a process?

I am not suggesting a pro athlete has a greater responsibility to society than any other citizen. But, if we’re being blunt about our society, celebrities of any nature have a far louder voice than any common man or woman.

Just check the Twitter followers, Facebook friends and overall Google searches …..

Don’t misunderstand the spirit of my message; I’m not suggesting that Major League Baseball should discontinue the annual celebration of Jackie Robinson Day, when April 15th arrives on the calendar. I simply think there is a better way of remembering his legacy, while availing an inspiration for today’s players to make a season-long commitment to honoring a true pioneer.

Rather than issuing #42 jerseys to every man wearing a big league uniform for one specific day, why not allow players to apply for the privilege of wearing #42 for an entire season?

Are you listening to ideas, Mr. Selig?

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My bold guarantees for the Major League Baseball season

Posted on 31 March 2011 by Rex Snider

With today’s official kickoff of the Major League Baseball season, I have decided to throw out my personal commemorative first pitch, of sorts. In fact, I’m throwing out SIX PITCHES, in the form of my half-dozen “locks” or guarantees for the upcoming campaign.

Nothing outrageous ….. such as the Pittsburgh Pirates making the playoffs.

Nothing obvious ….. such as the Pittsburgh Pirates missing the playoffs.

AND

Nothing cruel ….. such as being subjected to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

But, I do have a solid six hunches regarding the upcoming slate of regular season and postseason action. Will I be wrong? Nope, not a chance …..
.

San Francisco Giants – One & Done

The defending World Champions were an aberration, if not a freak of the modern game. Dominant starting pitching, complimented by a stifling closer? Yep. But, the Giants lineup was pasted together with retreads, fill-ins and future contributors. Aubrey Huff led the team, across the board, in offensive production – and he gathered slightly above average numbers.

It won’t happen, again. They will be home when the playoffs begin.

Mr. November Nails 3,000 Hits During A Stellar Season

It’s hard to believe the New York Yankees do not have a member of the 3,000 hit club. As we know, that’s about to change, with Derek Jeter needing just 74 hits to become the 28th member of the prestigious group – and he’ll do it in near record time.

But, my bold guarantee is Jeter reaches his milestone during an impressive “Jeter-like” season, hitting over .300 and serving as a spark plug to the Yankees offense. He’s been written off way too soon.

Gonzalez, Santana & Beckham

No, I am not referring to Adrian, Johan or David. As the 2011 season comes to an end, names like Carlos Gonzalez, Carlos Santana and Gordon Beckham will be even more recognizable as the budding stars of the game’s next era. All three of these players will take a GIANT step toward such prominence, this year.

Brewers Prove An Ageless Reality

We’ve witnessed this mistake numerous times over the last 30 years. George Steinbrenner tried it; along with Tom Hicks, Drayton McLane, Gene Autry and a few other owners. Championship-caliber teams can rarely be built, or substantially comprised during a single off-season. But, that’s exactly what Mark Attanasio and Doug Melvin are trying, in Milwaukee.

With the certain departure of Prince Fielder, after 2011, the Brewers are ALL IN with additions, such as Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum and most recently, the baggage-ridden Nyjer Morgan. Such teams lack continuity and are under an immediate pressure to win, on Opening Day. If they’re not in contention at the trade deadline, most assembled clubs are broken apart.

I expect the Brewers to be “sellers” as August approaches.

Top Rookies Are Not In The Majors

I have absolutely no idea who the American and National League “Rookies Of The Year” will be …. but, I’d be willing to bet neither player starts the season on a big league roster. It’s happened many times and will likely happen, again, in 2011. I suppose this is my way of suggesting some caution on hefty predictions for Jeremy Hellickson, Brandon Belt and Chris Sale.

Hall Of Fame – Class Of 2017 ???

As the 2011 season concludes, Jim Thome and Chipper Jones will officially go on the “Cooperstown Clock”. I’m more optimistic regarding Thome’s impact during the season, but it’s obvious both players are coming to the finish line of superb careers.

Thome will reach 600 homers, which virtually locks him in as a first ballot inductee. I think Jones is a much more debatable candidate. I’m tempted to include Ivan Rodriguez, but I can see him hanging around in 2012, especially if he’s above the 2900 hits plateau.

*** Tomorrow, I will cast a half dozen bold predictions for the Orioles

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Trip to Arizona Reminds Me 2011 Orioles Just Need to Win

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Trip to Arizona Reminds Me 2011 Orioles Just Need to Win

Posted on 30 March 2011 by Glenn Clark

When Nestor Aparicio told me Wednesday would be the day I would scribe my Baltimore Orioles preview piece, I chuckled a bit. I’m sure he had no idea of the symbolism involved.

If you listen to “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST (and you certainly should), you probably know that Wednesday marks the first time I’ve taken a vacation since returning to the Charm City airwaves in 2008.

I’m headed to Phoenix, which is where I lived and worked for two years after leaving CBS Radio here in Baltimore.

Just before departing CBS for the Valley of the Sun, I heard that Nasty was organizing an event called “Free The Birds”. I will admit now that upon hearing of the event, my thoughts (in my head and on-air) were along the lines of “what a blowhard.”

It wasn’t until I got to Arizona that I truly understood what Nestor was doing.

My only full season of MLB coverage in Arizona came in 2007. I was there for the end of the 2006 season and half of the 2008 season-but ’07 was my only full year of covering baseball-specifically the Arizona Diamondbacks.

It you’ll remember, 2007 was the year the D-Backs went on an improbable run to the NL West crown and a trip to the NLCS (where they would ultimately be dismissed by the Colorado Rockies).

The 2007 Diamondbacks were a special group. They were a young team (CF Chris Young, RF Justin Upton, SS Stephen Drew, 1B Conor Jackson and 3B Mark Reynolds were all at the beginning of their careers) with a few “journeymen” type veterans (1B Tony Clark, 2B Orlando Hudson and LF Eric Byrnes) sprinkled in.

Their pitching staff (led by stars Brandon Webb and Randy Johnson) was clearly what carried them to October, but even that group included some journeymen, as Doug Davis and Livan Hernandez held down rotation spots.

They were a fun team that found success from Opening Day until the postseason, and it made the entire summer in Phoenix sort of magical.

Every game in every series at Chase Field (and away from Chase Field) mattered. Every game had a story line. Every game had underlying drama.

Every game was discussed by sports fans the next day on radio, around water coolers and on social media accounts (MySpace was the most popular at the time) throughout the state.

chasefield

As someone who wasn’t from Phoenix (and who actually went to Chase Field for three games in June looking like the above and below pictures), I had no emotional ties to the D-Backs. Yet as the season continued, I found myself more and more emotionally invested as the city where I resided came down with a case of Diamondbacks fever.

os

I even found myself in a public fight with Diamondbacks President/CEO Derrick Hall before NLDS Game 1 against the Chicago Cubs-arguing with him that the team shouldn’t play “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” during the 7th Inning Stretch because it would give too much encouragement to the Cubs fans in attendance.

I REALLY didn’t care in my heart whether or not the Diamondbacks won the series. My team (the O’s) had just polished off their 10th consecutive losing season. Yet for some reason, the magic of the Diamondbacks’ accomplishment had touched even a dyed-in-the-wool Birds fan like myself.

It was then…in October of 2007…that I finally understood what Nestor (and company) were trying to say.

I hadn’t experienced that type of feeling as an Orioles fan in a decade.

I haven’t experienced it since then of course either.

The last time a meaningful game was played in Baltimore was in October of 1997, when Tony Fernandez crushed both Armando Benitez and the dreams of every 14 year old kid at Perry Hall High School like myself.

I at least got to see a meaningful game as a high school freshman. We’re now approaching a time where area kids will enter high school having not been alive for a single meaningful baseball game.

It’s real.

After seeing the Diamondbacks’ magical run and the way even a transient city like Phoenix was carried away by a season of baseball-I knew that “Free The Birds” was about the desire to finally see the city of Baltimore again experience the same thing.

And we all know just how much the city of Baltimore really needs to experience something like that.

That brings us to the 2011 Baltimore Orioles.

What’s happened with this franchise since 1997 isn’t the fault of President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail, Manager Buck Showalter, DH Vladimir Guerrero or any other player, coach or front office member…with one glaring exception-but we’ll leave Peter Angelos alone this time.

Just because the past 13 seasons aren’t the fault of the overwhelming majority of the principles involved in 2011 season doesn’t mean that the issues surrounding the past 13 seasons can suddenly be ignored.

Whether they like it or not, the 2011 Baltimore Orioles carry the burden of the failures of recent teams.

Just as the 2010 Baltimore Orioles did…and the 2009 Baltimore Orioles did…and the 2012 Baltimore Orioles will if this team doesn’t succeed.

The team (and most notably CF Adam Jones, who recently made some colorful comments to the Baltimore Sun) will be reminded of that when they report to Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Friday, April 22nd to open a six game homestand against the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

It will be a somewhat painful reminder that what happened between 1998-2010 is still very much an issue to fans in Baltimore today.

The 2011 Baltimore Orioles will have to accept the desperation of a fanbase deprived of a winner for 13 cities every time they step on a baseball diamond.

We’ll find out over the next six months whether or not they can handle the responsibility.

The early returns have been questionable. Jones has popped off about the fanbase, Showalter took time in an interview to worry about the money Red Sox GM Theo Epstein is spending and how Yankees SS Derek Jeter stands at the plate.

The Orioles (and Orioles fans) cannot afford to waste their time this season worrying about anything other than winning baseball games.

They’re fighting a battle that won’t be easy. While most pundits agree this team is better than they have been in recent years-few believe they will be better than the Yankees, Red Sox or even the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East. Few believe that meaningful games will return to OPACY after the All-Star Game this season.

The Orioles will look to do their best to prove those pundits wrong, and it won’t be easy.

In the meantime, they’ll have to try to win back an entire city. There will always be a group of hardcore fans that will support a team emotionally and economically no matter what the results are-but this team will look to re-establish a broader level of support beyond that group.

To do so-the only thing they can concern themselves with is winning.

In fact, the Orioles would be wise to channel Al Davis and consider a “Just Win, Baby” mentality for 2011.

If they do so-Jones won’t have to worry about who is in the stands when the Yanks come back to town this August. Showalter won’t have to worry about how much money any other team in Major League Baseball spends.

The 2011 Baltimore Orioles just need to worry about winning.

Nothing else.

If they can win even enough to have their name on the Wild Card race list when the Yanks visit this August-the feeling at those games will be even more special than what I experienced at playoff games in Phoenix in 2007.

-G

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