More than any sport, baseball helps reinforce the already-strong connection between my brother and I. From challenging each other with trivia questions or discussing quirky game situations — and, of course, our occasional renewal of our long-standing wiffle ball rivalry, despite us both being in our 40s — baseball has been the tie (not in terms of score, of course) that binds.
This year, as the 2012 season winds down, that’s true more than ever thanks to the unlikely story that is the Baltimore Orioles.
Given that the Birds hadn’t finished a season with a record of .500 or better since 1997, expectations weren’t exactly soaring in Baltimore this past spring. But, at the time of this writing, the O’s were still hanging remarkably tough in the always-brutal American League East, a mere half-game behind the consistently mighty (and therefore largely irritating) Yankees. Every baseball season — heck, every sports season — benefits from a good Cinderella story, and that story over the past five and a half months has been unfolding at Camden Yards, which just so happens to be my favorite big league park.
I must admit that I’ve been pulling hard for the Orioles over the last three or four weeks, partly because of the Cinderella factor and also because of the woeful play of the Twins. Plus, knowing Ian’s love for baseball — despite his being a very casual follower of the major leagues — and his affinity for the Orioles (having gone to college in Washington, D.C), I more or less took it upon myself to get us on the bandwagon together.
Several days ago, I started texting him with news on the Orioles. We soon talked about the team a bit — he knew none of the players nor the manager, but was excited they were doing well — and it didn’t take me long to get that he was going to be considerably more interested in the standings than he has been over the past many years. We soon were exchanging highlights from MLB.com, in-game texts … he was hooked, and it was a great way to be connected to a guy who’s living thousands of miles away in Alaska.
If the season ended today, Baltimore would not win the division, yet would qualify for a wild-card game against another unlikely 2012 contender, the Oakland A’s. Should that game wind up materializing — A’s vs. O’s, for the right to move on to a playoff series against the Yankees, White Sox (or, one can’t count out the Tigers yet) or Rangers, I’m hoping the teams take the field at night, so Ian and I can freely exchange voice calls and texts.
And, if the Orioles somehow find a way to play yet another unlikely powerhouse this season, the Washington Nationals, in the World Series, I just might have to try to talk him into flying from Alaska to the D.C. area for a game with me. Sure, that’s probably a highly unlikely scenario, but it’s the kind of thing a pair of baseball-loving brothers can dream about.