Yesterday, September 4th 2012, something really remarkable happened. (And no I am not referring to Michelle Obama’s impassioned, empathetic meter turner at the DNC.) The Baltimore Orioles defeated fellow American East mates the Toronto Blue Jays 12-0 to raise their record to 76-59. Baltimore and the New York Yankees, who are beginning to look more and more like a team lost at sea, are now tied atop the division with 27 games remaining in the regular season. This is a substantial development for two reasons: 1) in the middle of July the Yankees held a 10 game lead in the AL East and 2) as we all know, the Orioles, who internally could care less about their negative run differential, are 6 measly victories away from procuring their first winning season since 1997. Here’s what is really freaky, they may have me to thank for their recent rise to the top.
Soccer has Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” and now baseball has what will forever be remembered as the “the handshake”. My brother in law Eddie and I were fortunate enough to attend last Thursday’s night session at the U.S. Open. For those sports fan who have yet to visit the national tennis center it is a must. Great for the family or a single night out on the town. Of course, it’s not cheap and you may need to either dip into the disposable income or, like us, graciously accept a few of freebies.
Back to “the handshake”, it all went down outside of Arthur Ashe Stadium in between Roger Federer disposing of some really short German guy and Venus Williams sadly looking like her best was a thing of the past. As we were bounding down the concourse steps, excited to be a mere 20 paces away from another Honeydeuce and $15 free range chicken sandwich, I noticed a small cluster of people milling around a lower level entry area. At first glance there was nothing spectacular about this group. A couple of fairly attractive ladies in sandals and sun dresses, a few younger business bros who were probably on their way to Montauk to crush some mojitos over Labor Day weekend, and 2 dudes in jeans and tshirts. One of the guys had on a trucker hat pulled way down low which made it nearly impossible to decipher his facial features. But because I’m an Orioles fan, and recovering baseball card collector, I could tell that the man behind the mask was none other than Baltimore 1B Mark Reynolds, who was set to take in a little tennis before the Birds began their crucial three game series against the Yankees the following night.
Without thinking, I turned on a swivel and began walking towards Reynolds who was caught completely off guard when, with right hand extended, I said, “Hey Mark. Huge O’s fan. Good luck this weekend.”. He graciously shook my hand but the whole time had this look on his face like “who the hell is this guy and how does he know I’m Mark Reynolds”. Scared or not, I walked away both extremely proud that I recognized the starting 1B on my favorite baseball team and that he may or may not have been intimidated by my hulking, moderately intoxicated, presence.
Flash forward. Friday night. Orioles/Yankees at the Stadium. Start of a three game series that would go a long way towards determining the AL East. Mark Reynolds, my new best friend, ends the night with 2 home runs, and a couple of remarkable diving stops at first base, as Baltimore rolls 6-1. But it doesn’t end there, in the five games since “the handshake”, Reynolds has gone 8 for 19 with 5 HRs and 11 RBI helping the Orioles to a 4-1 record and tie New York atop the AL East standings.
Now you can say what you want about karma or positive vibes, but if you were in my position and your favorite baseball team hadn’t experienced a winning season in over 15 years, wouldn’t you like to believe that you could play a roll, however minor, in your team’s recent success? Of course, I refuse to accept responsibility if things all of a sudden go bad for the Birds. Blame J.J. Hardy. He was with Reynolds on the night of “the handshake” and was too “distracted” on his cell phone to accept my praises. Who knows, maybe we wil meet again in September.