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Saturday’s Orioles-Rays game postponed due to wintry conditions

Posted on 09 April 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Despite a miserably cold forecast that didn’t look promising, the Orioles waited until almost an hour after a scheduled 7:05 p.m. first pitch to postpone Saturday’s game with the Tampa Bay Rays.

While the Washington Nationals and the Double-A Bowie Baysox postponed home games hours earlier, Baltimore hoped to play the second contest of a three-game set despite a wintry mix, temperatures dipping below 40 degrees, and a wind chill in the upper 20s. The scheduled first pitch was initially delayed until 7:40 p.m. before the tarp was then put back on the field again and postponed shortly thereafter.

No makeup date was immediately announced, but the Rays return to Baltimore for a three-game set beginning on June 24 and also come to town for a four-game series in mid-September.

Sunday’s original starters will remain in place as right-hander Vance Worley will make his Orioles debut against Tampa Bay right-hander Jake Odorizzi. On Saturday night, Mike Wright had been scheduled to pitch against Rays lefty Drew Smyly.

Below is the release sent out by the Orioles announcing the postponement of Saturday’s game:

Fans are encouraged to exchange their tickets for tomorrow’s game on Sunday, April 10, beginning at 1:35 p.m. ET when the Orioles host the Tampa Bay Rays for the second annual Kids’ Opening Day. The celebration will welcome children and their families to a new season of Orioles Baseball with many fun activities and unique gameday opportunities for several lucky kids throughout the day.

If fans wish to attend tomorrow’s contest, they will need to exchange their tickets from tonight’s game at the Oriole Park Box Office. Box Office windows will be open at 11:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. Fans unable to attend tomorrow’s game are encouraged to keep their tickets until a makeup date is announced. If fans cannot attend the makeup date, tonight’s tickets can be exchanged for any remaining Orioles home game this season on a dollar-for-dollar basis. All exchanges are subject to availability and must be completed by June 25. Complimentary tickets are non-exchangeable. StubHub tickets are also non-exchangeable and must either be used for the makeup date or resold on StubHub once a makeup date is determined.

Kids’ Opening Day will feature a kids-only “Eat. Sleep. Orioles.” T-shirt, available to the first 7,500 fans age 14 and under. Additionally, all fans 14 and under will be able to participate in a postgame Kids Run the Bases, the first of 13 Sunday home games when kids can round the bases like their favorite Orioles. Select children will also be randomly chosen to take the field with the Orioles starters for the national anthem, help deliver the lineup card during the pregame exchange at home plate, and throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the game.

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Hardy hopes to play Sunday, Jones still absent

Posted on 09 April 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — As the Orioles tried to endure unseasonably cold weather in the second contest of a three-game set with Tampa Bay, shortstop J.J. Hardy and center fielder Adam Jones were once again out of the starting lineup before Saturday’s game was eventually postponed.

Hardy said his left calf was feeling much better after he sat out Friday’s series opener, but the low temperature and high winds in the forecast for Saturday night were factors in giving him one more day off. Manny Machado was making his second straight start at shortstop with utility infielder Ryan Flaherty starting at third base.

“I’m walking around with no pain,” said Hardy, who added that he plans to play in Sunday’s series finale. “I think I probably could get it going tonight and play, but I think with the cold I think everyone’s kind of scratching that idea. I’ll be good to go tomorrow.”

Jones was out of the lineup for the third straight game due to soreness in his rib area. Manager Buck Showalter was noncommittal about the status of both Hardy and Jones for Sunday, citing a forecast with temperatures that were only supposed to climb to just over 50 degrees.

Rookie Joey Rickard was making his third consecutive start in center field in place of Jones.

“They’re close. They’ll be available if I need them tonight. But if not, I wouldn’t tell you,” said Showalter on Saturday afternoon. “I’ll never say never [about Jones and Hardy returning on Sunday]. It’s a quick turnaround.”

With lefty Drew Smyly starting for the Rays on Saturday, Pedro Alvarez began the game on the bench with Matt Wieters serving as the designated hitter. Alvarez is the only Orioles regular still looking for his first hit of the season after going 0-for-12 in the first four games.

Showalter confirmed that Sunday starter Vance Worley will be on a pitch limit since he hasn’t thrown in a competitive game since the final spring game in Philadelphia on April 1.

Relief pitcher Brian Matusz (left intercostal strain) said he felt good after one-inning outings at Double-A Bowie on Thursday and Friday, but the lefty specialist may have one more extended outing with the Baysox on Monday before joining the Orioles on the upcoming road trip. There was previous talk of Matusz being activated from the 15-day disabled list as early as Sunday.

Starting pitcher Kevin Gausman (right shoulder strain) was scheduled to make a rehab start for Bowie on Saturday, but the Baysox postponed their game, pushing his outing to Sunday. Gausman will then make a rehab start at Single-A Frederick on Friday, but the previous target date of April 19 for his activation from the DL will be pushed back at least a day because of the schedule change.

In addition to the Baysox, the Washington Nationals postponed their Saturday afternoon game due to the bitter conditions, but the Orioles attempted to play their game with wind chills expected to fall below 30 degrees on Saturday evening.

“It’s going to be cold, but we play games,” Showalter said. “That’s what we do.”

Below were Saturday’s starting lineups:

TAMPA BAY
2B Logan Forsythe
DH Logan Morrison
3B Evan Longoria
LF Corey Dickerson
1B Steve Pearce
SS Brad Miller
RF Steven Souza Jr.
CF Kevin Kiermaier
C Curt Casali

SP Drew Smyly (0-1, 6.75 ERA)

BALTIMORE
CF Joey Rickard
LF Nolan Reimold
SS Manny Machado
1B Chris Davis
RF Mark Trumbo
DH Matt Wieters
2B Jonathan Schoop
C Caleb Joseph
3B Ryan Flaherty

SP Mike Wright (2015 stats: 3-5, 6.04 ERA)

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 6-1 win over Tampa Bay

Posted on 09 April 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 6-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night?

In the spirit of hockey’s “three stars” system with the addition of home plate for honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the fourth game of the 2016 season.

1stMatt Wieters didn’t homer like four of his teammates, but the veteran catcher drove in two runs with a pair of singles, the first concluding a 10-pitch battle with Rays ace Chris Archer to give the Orioles a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth. That lengthy at-bat was a precursor to the Orioles hammering Archer in a four-run fifth that included three solo home runs and was capped off with Wieters hitting a liner off the pitcher for an infield hit and another RBI. He now has an 11-game hitting streak dating back to last season, which is a career high. Wieters also did commendable work behind the plate as three Orioles pitchers combined to retire 21 of the last 23 Tampa Bay hitters they faced.

2nd — Chris Tillman wasn’t carrying the electric stuff he displayed in two flawless innings on Opening Day before a rain delay cut his outing short, but the right-hander overcame shaky command in the early going to toss five strong innings on 83 pitches. The 27-year-old retired the final nine hitters he faced, striking out four over that stretch. In all, Tillman gave up a solo homer to Evan Longoria in the first inning and gave up just three other hits and two walks while striking out five.

3rdChris Davis hit a 406-foot homer to center in the bottom of the second inning and walked twice, eventually scoring on each of Wieters’ RBI singles. It’s that combination of power and patience that the Orioles hope to continue to see after giving their first baseman a $161 million contract this winter.

HomeT.J. McFarland gave manager Buck Showalter exactly what he was looking for after he decided not to push Tillman too hard after coming back to pitch a day early. The lefty sinkerballer retired nine of the 10 hitters he faced, which included a stretch of six straight grounders. … Jonathan Schoop, Nolan Reimold, and Manny Machado all hit solo homers off Archer in the bottom of the fifth. The Orioles are a remarkable 27-4 in games in which Schoop hits a long ball. … Rookie Joey Rickard continued a memorable opening week with two more hits and is now hitting .467 in his first four games in the majors. … Baltimore has seven home runs in four games, all of them solo shots. … The Orioles have gone 4-0 to begin a season for the eighth time in club history. Their best start came in 1970 when they began 5-0 and would win their second World Series that season. … Mike Wright is scheduled to make his 2016 debut against Drew Smyly on Saturday night, but a not-so-promising weather forecast may force a postponement.

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Hardy, Jones out of Friday’s lineup against Tampa Bay

Posted on 08 April 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Center fielder Adam Jones was out of the Orioles lineup for a second straight night, but a veteran teammate joined him on the bench for the series opener against Tampa Bay on Friday.

J.J. Hardy experienced some calf tightness running the bases in Thursday’s win over Minnesota and was feeling better a day later, but Buck Showalter did not want to take any chances with a player who’s had several health issues over the last couple seasons. Jones was also feeling improvement in his rib area and even took swings in the batting cage on Friday afternoon, but the Orioles decided to give him another day to rest. Both players were available off the bench if needed, according to the Baltimore manager.

“I want to try to get ahead of it and make sure it doesn’t turn into something,” said Showalter about Hardy. “I was going to play Ryan [Flaherty] today anyway. Knowing the players — both of them — they know the difference between something that they should be careful with [and not]. Especially if we don’t play tomorrow [due to inclement weather], they should be ready to go on Sunday.”

Rookie Joey Rickard was leading off and playing center field for the second straight game as he prepared to play against the organization that let him go in the Rule 5 draft in December.

Instead of simply inserting Flaherty at Hardy’s position like he has in the past, Showalter chose to move Gold Glove third baseman Manny Machado to shortstop, his natural position. Machado started six games there last season when Hardy was dealing with injuries.

“He enjoys being able to do something for the club [when] there’s a need there,” Showalter said. “Ryan’s probably a little better third baseman than shortstop. That’s a tough act to follow — [Machado] knows. He doesn’t want to step back. He’s playing with house money as far as going over there. It’s kind of like a new toy for him, but it’s different. The clock’s different.”

Right-handed pitcher Kevin Gausman was still scheduled to make a rehab start at Double-A Bowie on Saturday, but a wintry forecast could postpone that to Sunday. The Orioles are still targeting an April 19 return date for the talented 25-year-old, but Showalter reiterated Friday that they’ll be cautious with Gausman’s health and they’ll delay the process if that’s what’s best for him.

Lefty reliever Brian Matusz was scheduled to pitch again for Bowie on Friday night and could be activated for Sunday’s game against the Rays.

The Orioles announced that veteran right-hander Vance Worley will be the No. 5 starter and is scheduled to start on Sunday, but that depends on what happens with the status of Saturday’s game in which Mike Wright is scheduled to pitch.

Below are Friday night’s lineups:

TAMPA BAY
2B Logan Forsythe
1B Logan Morrison
3B Evan Longoria
DH Corey Dickerson
LF Desmond Jennings
SS Brad Miller
RF Steven Souza Jr.
CF Kevin Kiermaier
C Hank Conger

SP Chris Archer (0-1, 3.60)

BALTIMORE
CF Joey Rickard
LF Nolan Reimold
SS Manny Machado
1B Chris Davis
RF Mark Trumbo
C Matt Wieters
DH Pedro Alvarez
2B Jonathan Schoop
3B Ryan Flaherty

SP Chris Tillman (0-0, 0.00)

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2016 American League East preview

Posted on 04 April 2016 by Luke Jones

The Toronto Blue Jays became the first team with fewer than 95 victories to win the American League East since the 2000 season, a trend that will continue in another parity-driven season in 2016.

The AL East also held the best last-place team in the majors in 2015 as Boston finished just six games below .500

Below is a capsule of the five AL East clubs in their predicted order of finish:

1. TORONTO (2015 record: 93-69, first place)
Notable additions: SP J.A. Happ, RP Drew Storen
Notable losses: SP David Price, OF Ben Revere, LHP Mark Buehrle
Why to like them: This wasn’t just the best offense in baseball, but the Blue Jays scored 127 more runs than any other club in the AL while leading the way in on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
Why to dislike them: The free-agent departures of Price and the dependable Buehrle put a lot of pressure on a starting rotation that was solid but unspectacular in 2015.
Player to watch: The 24-year-old Marcus Stroman is being counted on as the ace despite having only made seven total starts (counting the postseason) after a serious knee injury last spring.
2016 outlook (91-71): Toronto’s pitching is a notable question mark, but that lineup is far and away the biggest strength that any of the five clubs in this division have.

2. TAMPA BAY (2015 record: 80-82, fourth place)
Notable additions: OF/DH Corey Dickerson, SS Brad Miller, 1B Logan Morrison, OF Steve Pearce
Notable losses: SP Nate Karns, RP Jake McGee, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, 1B/DH John Jaso
Why to like them: The Rays sport the best starting rotation in the AL East and are on track to get the accomplished Alex Cobb back from Tommy John surgery later this season.
Why to dislike them: Tampa Bay’s bullpen was ninth in the AL in ERA before trading away the hard-throwing McGee and the lineup is improved but still doesn’t scare you.
Player to watch: Should Drew Smyly and Matt Moore show that their injuries are finally behind them, the Rays rotation that already led the AL in ERA a year ago will be scary.
2016 outlook (88-74): The Rays made just enough offensive improvement to propel themselves into contention and will snag one of the two wild cards in the AL.

3. BOSTON (2015 record: 78-84, fifth place)
Notable additions: SP David Price, RHP Craig Kimbrel, RHP Carson Smith, OF Chris Young
Notable losses: SP Wade Miley, SP Rich Hill
Why to like them: The Red Sox acquired the ace that they desperately needed and a dominant closer to go along with one of the best offenses in the AL.
Why to dislike them: There are still too many question marks in the rotation behind Price and there may not be enough bullpen depth to get to the dominant Kimbrel in the ninth inning.
Player to watch: The Hanley Ramirez outfield experience was a disaster in 2015, so the Red Sox are hoping a move to first base will help them collect on their hefty free-agent investment.
2016 outlook (85-77): There is clear upside with a club that played better late in 2015, but there are still too many questions about the pitching to make Boston the AL East favorite.

4. BALTIMORE (2015 record: 81-81, third place)
Notable additions: SP Yovani Gallardo, OF Mark Trumbo, DH Pedro Alvarez
Notable losses: SP Wei-Yin Chen, SP Miguel Gonzalez, OF Steve Pearce, OF Gerardo Parra
Why to like them: An offense that finished third in the AL in homers added two more bats with 30-homer power and the AL’s third-best bullpen could be better with Mychal Givens and Dylan Bundy.
Why to dislike them: The Orioles finished next to last in the AL in starter ERA and lost their most dependable starter (Chen) while replacing him with Gallardo, a solid veteran with declining stuff.
Player to watch: Kevin Gausman will begin the year on the disabled list, but his development is key in determining whether the starting rotation can improve enough to make the Orioles a viable contender.
2016 outlook (80-82): An offense that will hit a ton of home runs and a terrific bullpen won’t be able to overcome a starting rotation that needed to be upgraded and wasn’t this winter.

5. NEW YORK (2015 record: 87-75, second place)
Notable additions: RP Aroldis Chapman, 2B Starlin Castro, OF Aaron Hicks
Notable losses: SP Adam Warren, RP Justin Wilson, OF Chris Young
Why to like them: Once Chapman returns from suspension, the Yankees will sport the scariest bullpen trio in the majors and will be able to shorten games even more than they did in 2015.
Why to dislike them: New York finished 10th in the AL in starter ERA and is depending on too many veteran position players in the heart of the lineup to fight off Father Time.
Player to watch: Much attention will fall on Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia, but the key for the rotation will be whether Michael Pineda establishes himself as a legitimate No. 1-caliber starter.
2016 outlook (78-84): The lineup is littered with too many older players who won’t manage to stay as healthy and productive as they did last year when the Yankees secured a wild card.

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Former Oriole Pearce set to join Tampa Bay

Posted on 21 January 2016 by Luke Jones

The last of the Orioles’ free agents has finally found a home.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, veteran outfielder and first baseman Steve Pearce has agreed to a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Rays. The deal is pending a physical.

Though a favorite of manager Buck Showalter, the 32-year-old Pearce was not expected to return as the Orioles hadn’t made any real effort to re-sign him after a disappointing followup to his career year in 2014. With the acquisition of Mark Trumbo early in the offseason and the re-signing of Nolan Reimold, Pearce became expendable with the Orioles having a number of right-handed bats to fill a similar role.

In 325 plate appearances in 2015, Pearce hit just .218 with 15 home runs, 40 runs batted in, and a .711 on-base plus slugging percentage. He received starts at first base, second base, left field, right field, and designated hitter in 2015.

The journeyman was a major reason why the Orioles were able to endure the losses of Manny Machado, Matt Wieters, and Chris Davis on their way to finishing 96-66 and winning their first American League East title in 17 years two seasons ago. Playing a career-high 102 games, Pearce hit .293 with 21 homers, 49 RBIs, and a club-leading .930 OPS. Despite receiving only 383 plate appearances, he led the Orioles with 5.9 wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference.

The Lakeland, Fla. native would appear to be a perfect fit with Tampa Bay, especially when you consider his career numbers at Tropicana Field. Pearce has seven homers and a 1.039 OPS in 86 career plate appearances playing at the Rays’ home ballpark.

Beginning the offseason with six free agents, the Orioles ultimately kept three as catcher Matt Wieters accepted a $15.8 million qualifying offer, relief pitcher Darren O’Day signed a four-year, $31 million contract, and first baseman Chris Davis agreed to a seven-year, $161 million deal last weekend. Starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen (Miami) and outfielder Gerardo Parra (Colorado) joined Pearce as free-agent departures.

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Ravens hire former NFL head coach Frazier, shake up defensive staff

Posted on 15 January 2016 by Luke Jones

A week after saying he would be keeping his coaching staff intact despite a 5-11 season, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh made changes to his defensive group headlined by the hiring of former NFL head coach Leslie Frazier.

A source confirmed Friday night that the former head man of the Minnesota Vikings will coach the Baltimore secondary. The 56-year-old Frazier had served as the defensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the last two seasons and coached with Harbaugh for four years on Andy Reid’s staff in Philadelphia from 1999-2002.

The Ravens finished 10th in the NFL in pass defense this past season, but the secondary struggled mightily in the first half of the season as defensive backs were frequently out of position and played with poor technique. This will mark the fourth different secondary coach for the Ravens in four years.

Frazier also served as a defensive coach in Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and Minnesota. Following the dismissal of Vikings head coach Brad Childress late in the 2010 season, Frazier was promoted from defensive coordinator to interim coach and was hired permanently, serving as the head coach from 2011-2013. He guided Minnesota to the playoffs in 2012, which marked the single-biggest turnaround in franchise history.

The Cleveland Browns had reportedly been interested in Frazier as their defensive coordinator before he agreed to join the Ravens.

Defensive backs coach Chris Hewitt will now assist Frazier in the secondary while cornerbacks coach Matt Weiss will now assist Don Martindale with coaching the linebackers. Linebackers coach Ted Monachino departed last week to become the new defensive coordinator in Indianapolis.

With longtime defensive line coach Clarence Brooks continuing to fight esophageal cancer and expected to undergo surgery this offseason, the Ravens will ease his workload as he will become a senior defensive assistant and former Tampa Bay defensive line coach Joe Cullen will join Baltimore under Brooks’ previous title.

Previously an assistant for Cleveland (2013), Jacksonville (2010-2012), and Detroit (2006-2008), Cullen had spent the last two seasons with the Buccaneers and was believed to be a candidate to become their defensive coordinator before new head coach Dirk Koetter hired Mike Smith on Friday.

While most position coaches work in relative anonymity, Cullen became infamous in 2006 for a pair of alcohol-related incidents, which included an arrest for driving under the influence and another for driving naked through a Wendy’s drive-through. He was fined $20,000 and suspended for one game by the NFL for detrimental conduct in addition to being sentenced by a judge to probation, community service, and required attendance at Alcoholic Anonymous meetings.

Cullen has apparently stayed out of trouble since then and has even used his own experiences to try to help troubled players.

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Part 2: Life On The Road, 30 Days of #GiveASpit and baseball (The journey)

Posted on 10 September 2015 by Nestor Aparicio

 

 

 

 

 

“It ain’t never been done ‘cause we ain’t ever done it.

You’ve got to stop thinking so negative, son!”

Bo “Bandit” Darville

(as performed by Burt Reynolds)

Smokey & The Bandit

 

 

ONCE THE TRIP WAS FINALIZED and it was decided that I’d be flying more than originally planned, the only real concerns we had about the voyage were the not-so-remote chances of some catastrophic weather or travel issues that could derail the goal: getting to 30 MLB games in 30 days without interruption or too much drama.

We also couldn’t afford to get sick or injured. Carrying bags around the continent would suck with a bad back or a bum foot. As we learned in 2014, your health is everything!

Would all the planes arrive on time? Would weather cooperate? Clearly, a few poorly timed storms and the trip would be a mess. You can only truly plan so much and then fate determines the outcome.

And if you’ve listened to my radio show at any point over the past quarter of a century, you know that I despise rain delays. Nothing good happens when it rains in baseball.

I’ve dedicated some time on the radio over the past few months discussing the trip and some of the comedy, drama and sights I saw on my unique journey. Most of my guests along the route joined me afterward to talk about it on the radio.

I’ve also joked that no one prepared me for 30 straight days of airplanes, airports, hotels, stadiums, restaurants and their various brands of cheap toilet paper.

There were many statistics and “over and under” side bets I was making with my wife on the 30-30 trip regarding beer consumed, hot dogs inhaled, hangovers, bad hotel pillows, crappy showers, lost/forgotten items, etc. And as much as we prepared to travel light and packed as little as we’d need, we never thought we’d really succeed in our goal of never having to check a bag for 30 days. But, miraculously, I literally lived out of one suitcase, one backpack and carted a giant cotton swab “prop” in a long tube through every TSA checkpoint in the United States. (By the way, TSA Pre is a wonderful thing!)

Toward the end of the 30-day journey, most mornings I was torn by an extreme coffee situation. I’m a coffee nerd but it became a daily decision about whether to caffeinate before a flight at 5 a.m. (and not sleep) or afterward, in the next airport or city after a plane nap.

And there were several days at the end where I was extremely loopy and working on three or four hours of sleep and moving from hotel bed to shower to car to highway to parking garage to shuttle to TSA to gate to plane to seats to sleep…

Some days – like in Dallas, San Diego and Denver – I was running on fumes and took a few hours to sleep. In others, like Los Angeles and Milwaukee, we were full of energy and put almost 20,000 steps on my wife’s Fit Bit.

You can see my 30 ballpark rankings here at WNST.net but to be honest there are no truly awful experiences in Major League Baseball in regard to stadiums. And the beauty is all in the eye of the beholder. As I wrote in my preview blog for the rankings, many of these stadiums – or is it stadia? – provide a pretty similar experience. Whether it’s hot dog races, presidents or sausages, it’s all kinda the same thing. They all do “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” in the 7th inning. They all bluster “God Bless America” every night. They all have “walk up” music for individual players.

Most have the most annoying item in modern sports – the P.A. or music or scoreboard imploring the crowd to “make some noise” with various cues and sounds. Nothing more cheeseball than that.

Every team has a team of people trying to make the “game day experience” something memorable. Every team wants to do something special when you come to the ballpark to lure you back and attract you as a lifer baseball fan.

Or at least they should.

But that part is a mixed bag – market to market, team to team, brand to brand.

Some teams always win. Some teams almost never win.

Some have vibrant fan bases. Many are a distant second citizen to the NFL.

Some teams treated me well. Some treated me like garbage.

Certain ballparks have a “wow” factor and some don’t. Some have good teams right now and some are in the midst of having awful seasons this summer so the experience wasn’t as rich. Seeing Toronto or the New York Mets in September would be far different than having seeing them in June. And seeing Houston and Kansas City this June was far different than anything they’ve seen in those ballparks in many Junes.

I had some “wow” moments and memories of my own on this tour and that’s what the rest of this essay is about: the stuff that’s worth telling you about.

Let’s start with the MVP of the 30-30 MLB #GiveASpit tour: artist Mike Ricigliano. The skinny dude with the funny hats has been drawing cartoons of me (and virtually everyone else in the sports world) in Baltimore for 30 years. I met him at The News American in 1984 on the weekend my son was born. He’s one of the enduring friends in my life and we’ve had a lot of laughs over the years. His son was originally responsible for dubbing me “Nasty Nestor.”

Here’e the story of the giant cotton swab – the enduring item from the 30-30 #GiveASpit tour.

On April 8th, I attended a Washington Capitals game with an NHL fan from Edmonton, Alberta named Rob Suggitt – a kindred spirit in hockey fandom.

While Caps Senior Manager of Community Relations Peter Robinson was giving Suggitt an incredible tour of the Verizon Center on the 27th night of his 30 rinks in 30 days mission for Make A Wish, I was telling them about my similarly arranged baseball tour.  Robinson said: “You should get a giant cotton swab and take it everywhere you go! That would help you get people on the registry.”

You know what?

He was right.

By request, Ricig made the fabulous cotton swab that started in the hands of Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson from Rush along with Randy Johnson the night before the tour started.

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It was an instant hit at the United Center in Chicago that night.

Every stadium we swabbed in – except Minnesota – we had Ricig’s giant cotton swab leading the way to get folks to our booth to learn about the bone marrow registry and get on the list for There Goes My Hero and Delete Blood Cancer.

Some of the looks we got from fans were priceless. Dude in pink shirt waving giant cotton swab in stadium bowl! But it was a lightning rod to get folks to our table for education, swabbing and success.

It also caused some attention we didn’t want. We were pulled up by Comerica Park security in Detroit and forced to take it to the car. They thought it was a weapon. I told them it was a weapon to save lives.

The gate agent at the St. Louis airport forced us to check it on a one-hour flight to Milwaukee but “The Swab” made it successfully onto 21 other flights in 30 days on the road. I guess if you get on airplanes every morning with a third carry on that’s a giant Q Tip, eventually you’ll encounter the wicked witch of Southwest.

People have repeatedly asked me what the highlights of the tour were over the 32 days on the road. It’s impossible to recount everything we saw and every person who was kind to us but I hope this essay captures the essence of

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Davis’ two longest bombs of year give Orioles temporary relief

Posted on 03 September 2015 by Luke Jones

Chris Davis’ longest home run of the year and the emphatic bat flip that followed are unlikely to save the season, but the Orioles could breathe a temporary sigh of relief on Wednesday night after they hadn’t led over their previous 51 innings before the walk-off blow against Tampa Bay.

The 459-foot blast to the back of the right-center bleachers in the bottom of the 11th came after a 446-foot shot in the fourth inning that had been his longest homer of the 2015 season. His 37th and 38th long balls of the year were instrumental in the Orioles snapping a six-game losing streak, but the precursor for his breakout performance may have come a night earlier.

With Baltimore trailing 11-0 to Tampa Bay in the late innings and Buck Showalter looking to give his biggest stars — Davis, Adam Jones, and Manny Machado — a breather, the first baseman asked his manager to let him stay in the game. Like many of his teammates, Davis was angry and just didn’t feel like throwing in the towel on what would be the Orioles’ 12th loss in 13 games.

The lefty slugger hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to avoid a shutout, inconsequential to the game’s outcome but maybe a trigger for one of Davis’ patented hot streaks.

“I understand Jonesy playing center field every day, Manny playing third every day,” said Davis about his request to remain in Tuesday’s game while his teammates exited early. “I had a DH [day] in Texas and had a chance to get my legs under me a little bit and I wanted to stay in that game. I didn’t like the way things were going. I didn’t like the way I was playing, and I just wanted to try to get something started.

“There may have been some carryover [to Wednesday], but I think more than anything, it was just an attitude. ‘It’s not over. Enough’s enough.’ And just trying to turn it around.”

With the Orioles entering the off-day still five games below .500 and 6 1/2 games behind the second wild card in the American League, now it’s about looking toward the future with Davis set to become a free agent at the end of the season. Fans certainly hope Baltimore’s future involves Davis remaining a fixture in the heart of the lineup, but he won’t come cheap as he closes in on the second 40-homer season of his career.

The 29-year-old has hit 150 home runs since the start of 2012 and has hit at least 33 in three of his four full seasons with the Orioles.

“The guy’s going to hit 40 home runs and drive in 100 runs,” Showalter said. “He posts up every day. And like the story I told you, him playing the last inning or two [Tuesday] night might have been the key to tonight and the rest of our season. Those are the little things that go unnoticed.”

Davis’ rebound campaign from a disastrous 2014 certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed, begging a crucial question to be asked.

After watching Nelson Cruz depart last offseason, can the Orioles really afford to lose a 40-homer slugger for a second year in a row both on the field and in the eyes of their fan base?

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Looking under the tent at the end of a freeway in the heat of Florida...

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MLB #GiveASpit Ballpark Ranking: No. 17 Tampa Bay Rays

Posted on 23 August 2015 by Nestor Aparicio

Tampa Bay – I don’t hate the place. I’ve seen some big games there – most notably Game 7 of ALCS when the Devil Rays beat the Boston Red Sox in 2005 on the biggest stage. It’s a dome. It’s at the edge of the freeway. But I defy you to go to that ballpark and not feel some weird sense of hominess. The Rays are cool. The concessions are old school but they’ve clearly tried very hard. I just don’t hate it. As a matter of fact, it’s kind of a cool place to fly away watch the Orioles play. You can lay on the beach all day and then go inside where it’s nice and cozy and comfortable and watch a Major League Baseball game. You can pet the Rays. See some Ted Williams relics. Watch a decent team. Sorry, haters. I like Tropicana. It ain’t great. But it’s far from the worst experience of going to a MLB game. I always enjoy watching a game there.

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On Sept. 8-9-10, I will be releasing an extensive essay documenting my 30-30 MLB #GiveASpit journey of 2015. You can read it and all of my work here: http://wnst.net/author/nestoraparicio/

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