The Quest

The Baltimore Orioles have been in town since '54 and have had over 900 men don their uniform. My goal is to obtain a signed card of each player. If you have something I need, or see something you want, don't be shy, we can make a deal.

Collection Statistics

Total Players 877/977 = 89.25%
1991 Orioles Crown Set
Total Players 309/465 = 66.45%
Alive Players 274/369 = 74.25

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Face to Face With Ripken

During my blogging "career" I have remained faceless during my ranting and raving.  It sort of just happened.  It was never my intention but just worked out that way.  I am not fearful of people knowing who I am and have actually met a dozen or more followers of my blog. 

I always felt like the players, the cards, the autographs and the stories were most important, and they are.  But today, I make my first appearance on my own blog.

Friday, May 3rd was a great day for many reasons. 

I didn't have to work.

I spent the day outside.

I was with Wifey all day.

I played softball to help less fortunate kids.

I rubbed elbows with bonafide big-leaguers.

Wifey's company has had a long standing relationship with the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation in Aberdeen Md.  Donations and sponsorships of charity events to help build youth baseball fields across the country are part of their contributions.  They also built the replica Camden Yards at the facility, the crown jewel of the Aberdeen complex.

Camera Phone View
 Each year, the Foundation organizes a charity softball tournament played in Aberdeen, on their most iconic fields.  Camden Yards, Fenway Park, Memorial Stadium, Wrigley Field and National's Park are where 10 teams vie for the championship.  Wifey's company sponsored a team and I was invited to play.

Actually, Wifey was the first to sign up, so I could play.  She isn't a team sports person, but tolerates my passion for playing the game and being a part of baseball softball.  She is a runner and understands competition, but only against personal records and the course.  She doesn't run to win the race.  She also hadn't played softball or organized sports since 5th grade, so the sacrifice to put herself out there was not lost on me.  I owe her.  Big time.
We got to the facility around 9:30am, games started around noon, so we had time to warm up and mingle.  We got loose on the turf warm up field and even took a few practice swings, in one of 12 batting cages.  The facility is amazing and I can only imagine how the kids felt, as I was in awe as an adult.  Playing slow pitch softball.  When I was a kid, the high end facilities had snack bars, not batting cages, bullpens and electronic scoreboards.

Before the first game we met with our celebrity manager, Bill Swaggerty.  He was a member of the 1983 World Series Championship Team and played for four seasons with the Orioles.  More on this Bill later.  We posed for a team photo with our manager Bill and Foundation Vice Chairman Billy Ripken.
My Debut

Billy Ripken spoke about the success of the foundation, their work and the contributions each donor had made, as only Billy can.  He kept it light and fun as was the tenor of the day.

A random draw selected the three opponents for the day, we had a rough one.  First was defending champion Kelly and Associates, followed by Wal-Mart, finishing up with 2012 runner-up Under Armour.  Ouch.

No, literally ouch.  While warming up the pitcher for our first game, Wifey took a ball off the knee that kept her out an inning.  She toughed it out though.  Kelly and Associates led by Tippy Martinez bombed us in the first game.  We didn't do ourselves any favors booting the ball all over the field.  We found a few runs at the end of the game, jacking two home runs out of replica Wrigley Field, Ivy and all.

Walking to National's park, we ran into Billy Ripken holding court.  I made sure to bring a bunch of cards of anyone who may have been in attendance, just in case.  This was a good case.  Billy knew a project mamager with the company, who asked for an autograph for me.
Billy Ripken 1991 Orioles Crown #382
Throughout the day, I saw a lot of posed shots with the former players, but didn't see any other autographs. It made me a little awkward, but Billy was gracious. I needed to upgrade to the Crown card from a 1988 Topps version.
Wal-mart was next and we left all the jitters with the first game.  We came out hot and played some inspired defense.  We won by more than 10 and the game was stopped in the fifth inning.  All was not good though.  We had a pulled hamstring take out our lone sub and I busted up my right heel beating out an infield single.  For the remainder of the game and the final game, I was limping around the field.  The pain was intense but I believe now that it is just a deep bone bruise on my heel, not anything broken.  So, that's a plus.

And yes, the field was turf except for the mound and home plate.  It took some getting used to but all the hops were true.

Our final game was a loss to Under Armour that we kept close.  No expectations of a championship with our team, but an unbelievable day.

Under Armour led by Chris Hoiles lost in the finals to a B.J. Surhoff managed team.  Ten former big leaugers in all came out in support of the foundation including Steve Rogers of Expos lore, Mike Bielecki and former Orioles Dickie Noles and Scott McGregor.

I am that ultra-competitive guy that tends to take things too seriously, but not on this day.  I was able to relax and have fun, something I rarely do when losing.  The event, the day, the people and the cause were too good for me to ruin it by being that guy.  Hopefully, I get asked back if they sponsor a team next year. 

Oh, any guesses as to which guy I am in the team photo?  If you know me, don't ruin it.

No comments:

Post a Comment