The other night I was in attendance at the Babe Ruth Birthday Bash at the Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards in Baltimore. Part of that event was an Orioles baseball forum with a group of radio, tv and newspaper reporters. Every seat in that room was filled, so I stood in the doorway. Eventually I raised my hand to ask a question, but more to make a statement. As I listened to others in the room ask questions about players the O’s might get, holes in the team which needed to be filled, money which may or may not be spent, and discussions about the owner, Peter Angelos, I had an idea. I spoke out and told the group I was going to write a letter to Mr. Angelos and tell him a story, just so he could better understand what I feel and I’m sure to speak for more than just myself in sharing these feelings. This letter is not meant to be critical, there’s no begging, no personal attacks, it’s just to speak from the heart and share these emotions with the man at the top of the Orioles franchise.
Here now my letter to Peter Angelos:
Dear Mr. Angelos,
Picture this: An early summer night in 2012 at Camden Yards, my wife and my two daughters, ages 12 and 10, sitting beside me in the upper deck behind home plate, watching the Orioles. My oldest, Sophie, turns to me to ask about those numbers hanging from just beneath the upper deck in left field.
Slowly I read each number out loud and explain to her about each one, #20-Frank Robinson, #5-Brooks Robinson, #4-Earl Weaver, #22-Jim Palmer, #33-Eddie Murray, #8-Cal Ripken. I am describing in intimate detail about each player and the manager and their Hall of Fame contributions to the Orioles. Sophie sits silently listening to my explanation, then turns back to face me and to ask a question, “Daddy, how do you know so much?” The answer is easy to come up with, but it breaks my heart to say it out loud. “Because Sophie I was a huge, huge, huge Orioles fan, so was your Mom. I love baseball, I lived and died with this team, but for longer than you have been alive, longer than you and Emily have been on this earth, the Orioles have been a bad team, so there was little reason to pay attention. If they were winning, like they are now, you see what happens, you see Mommy and I watching the Orioles on TV, listening to the games on the radio, talking about baseball… and you and Emily are suddenly paying attention. It hurts my heart every time I think about how long it has been and that you haven’t grown up watching the Orioles and loving baseball like we did.”
Mr. Angelos, Peter, this is my personal letter to you. There’s a reason that picture, that moment, that conversation has stayed embedded in my memory, because it means something and at the same time it signifies what meaning had been lost. It was incredible to be sitting there with my family and my two daughters, who for the first time in their lives were experiencing what it meant to be a baseball fan, to be an Orioles fan. How these moments enrich your life and how this game, this 6-month, and if you’re lucky, 7-month soap opera can make the spring, summer and early fall a magical time. How nearly every night is filled with the sounds of the greatest game ever created, and every day is the anticipation of another to be played. For the very first time, Sophie and Emily got it. My daughters, the loves of my life were experiencing the same thing I and my wife had done growing up in Baltimore. A 15-year gap in time had been closed for us, but for my girls, that time was lost.
The Orioles skipped nearly a generation of significance in this town. The Ravens filled the void, easily. They drafted, paid for, signed, coached and played their way into the hearts and minds of this great city. Winners. Baltimore easily embraces a winner, and at the same time is gracious when there is an off-year, an off-season, because the people of this town are also forgiving, we understand you can’t make magic every year.
But then there were the Orioles. Year after year after year after year of losing. Not just losing, not even showing up. I’m not going to recount all those years and that history, because it’s not the point of this letter and frankly, I’m not even in a position to do so, because I stopped paying attention. My daughters never even got the chance to start.
2012 changed all that. Baseball roared back to the forefront of our lives. The Orioles brought the magic back and magically my family paid attention again. Every feeling, every emotion I had locked away for 15 years came rushing back to the surface. And now my girls were along for the ride. Orioles baseball and attention to it, the passion for it returned to the inner four walls of my home and like moths to a flame we were drawn back to the ballpark as well. As I’m sure you know, there is nothing quite like spending the time at the ballpark with your family…when the time is right.
The time was right. The time is right. The point of my story is I’m not writing to criticize you, I’m not writing to beg for this player or that player, I’m not part of the baseball front office running this team, I’m not part of the ownership group. I’m simply a fan, sharing a story and in doing so trying to make a point.
Peter, don’t miss the opportunity to leave a legacy. You have owned this team for more than two decades now and it’s been three decades since the Orioles and this unbelievable city felt what it is like to be a baseball champion. But forget history, you can’t live in the past, you can learn from it, but you must, you must live for today and the hope and promise of tomorrow. The point I’m trying to make is to give hope Peter. From all that I hear, all that I read, and all that is talked about, in the end it’s up to you. You hold the purse strings, you make the tough decisions and I have no doubt they are tough. Money creates incredible emotions, having it, saving it, investing it and spending it wisely. You are a self-made man. You came from nothing, from meager beginnings and built an empire. You don’t like mistakes, you have been savvy and shrewd, you don’t get to where you are by doing anything less. You want to give back. You set out to save a city by buying a baseball team from those who stopped caring about baseball in Baltimore. And I have no doubt, no doubt, that you care deeply. And you make the tough decisions every day.
Today the cost of running a baseball team is enormous, the dollars players make are off-the-charts and into the stratosphere, even for those you might consider mediocre. But it is the reality we live in now. The same guy who 20 years ago got paid $2 million to throw a baseball and to lose just as many games as he wins, now costs $12 million or more. I get it. It is what it is, it is the economics of the game. It is the world we live in and if you want to compete you have to let go of the past and live the reality of today. It’s not easy, we all want the “good old days” to remain, but the world changes, not just the economics of sports, but the world. Change is inevitable, growth is optional. But once you start growing, how wonderful it can be to keep the upward momentum going. But if you stop growing, you die.
Two seasons ago the Orioles brought baseball life back to Baltimore. It was a huge hole in the heart of this city that had been growing ever wider for more than a decade and if the magic hadn’t happened then, maybe a hole so wide, a gap so large there would have been little which could have been done to repair it. But they did. The players, the manager, the front office, the owner…in one magical 162-game season, the incredible allure of baseball returned to the very center of this city and its collective heart. The Orioles were back.
My girls, sitting beside me that night at Camden Yards and throughout that season were along for the ride. All I am asking you is to keep it going. Don’t et the magic slip away again. You have the nucleus of a fantastic team, you have the best manager in baseball, you have the best and the brightest baseball minds in the game in that front office. And you, at 84-years-of-age, have what we all have, mortality and time, which every day ticks away, sometimes slowly, sometimes at breakneck speed. The goal of this human existence is to make the most of that time, to make your existence matter, to give back, to leave it better than you found it.
As the game ended in with another Orioles victory that summer night in 2012, the bleachers and the seats in the upper deck emptied out, the lights were turned off and for a few moments there was darkness. Then there was music playing and bright, colorful lights shooting straight up into the dark night sky. A post-game fireworks show, the perfect end to a perfect night.
As I sat there staring at the faces of my children, and saw the lights reflected in their own eyes, I thought about all that we had missed over the years, not getting to share this experience together. It wasn’t just the fireworks, it was the Orioles, it was baseball and winning baseball bringing us together as only this game can. Baseball is just like life and life is precious. So is winning.
All I’m asking is not to take all of this for granted. There is such a fine line between competing and being a winner. In this game, in the reality of today’s major league baseball, it’s the extra move, the extra player, the extra dollars spent to put the extra in front of ordinary and make it extraordinary. Do what it takes to keep the heart and life of this Orioles team beating. Do it for me, do it for my girls, do it for every fan and every family who wants nothing more than to see the winning continue. Don’t let another generation miss the magic.
Leave a legacy Peter. If nothing else, do it for you.
Sincerely, Mark Brodinsky
Mark Brodinsky, Author
It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story
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