“A hot dog at the ballpark is better than steak at the Ritz.”

— Humphrey Bogart, Brooklyn Dodgers fan

 

MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

Monday at Oriole Park at Camden Yards it was a case of two being even better, and since you asked, a loaded chili cheese dog, a classic frank with ketchup, mustard (yes, I do both) and relish and a bag of peanuts with a couple of Miller Lites and a pair of Guinness Baltimore Blondes (brewed in Bawlmer, hon); and, oh yes, a 2-0 Orioles win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

All in all, a productive day. And, no, I did not drive

I believe it was St. Louis Cardinals fan Dorothy Gale who once said, “There’s no place like home.” Thus, it is clear Dorothy never took Toto to Opening Day, because if she had she wouldn’t have cared if she never saw that stinking farm again.

Aside from the party that takes place in the streets and the squares of downtown Baltimore beginning first thing every Opening Day morning and aside from the 2022 Orioles themselves, who limped into their home opener as the only winless team in the big leagues, the chief curiosity of the day was how the expanded and heightened left-field wall would make the ballpark play.

So, naturally, there wasn’t a ball hit anywhere near left field on Monday afternoon but, hey, that’s baseball. Those baseball gods play with a lot of sarcasm sometimes.

As for the Orioles, they pitched well and played defense well enough on Monday to come away with a shutout, which, through the past four seasons, has been quite rare. Tuesday night, however, normalcy made its return, at least through the baby steps stages of this rebuild, as the Orioles gave away three unearned runs and left 10 runners on base, including four in scoring position in the final two innings with less than two out.

Yes, just five games in, the joys (Cedric Mullins is fast emerging as a star) and the frustrations (careless defense and missed opportunity) of a new baseball season have both been on display in full force. Yet thank goodness it just is the baseball season, for the expectancy of it and the realization that it is so close you can touch it, does strange and wonderful things to us all.

Just as a natural sadness surrounds us in October with the completion of our great projects, a natural thrill engulfs us in April as we embark upon those same projects.

Middle-aged men are filled with as much anticipation as a teen-aged boy who has finally convinced the Homecoming queen to go on a date with him. A long, wondrous adventure awaits, even though for most of us (Orioles and Pirates fans coming immediately to mind), the season, like the date, will end with unfulfilled promise, rather than the long imagined taste of the promised land.

In the end, there is only one winner in baseball, but how each new season and the quest to someday become that winner play out is worth every step of the way and is certain to provide memories and joys that last a lifetime.

For the Orioles, the only certainty is the team and the roster fans are watching during this week’s homestand in Baltimore will not even be close to being the team and the roster they will see in, perhaps, as little as a month or two.

There will be trades – veteran Trey Mancini likely and even Mullins possible, depending on the potential return – and new faces and different names will be aplenty as it is finally time to see some sort of movement on general manager Mike Elias’ massive rebuild.

There will be plenty of things for Orioles fans to look for and to keep track of, whether they think they like what they see or not, which, of course, was the mindset and the rush that engulfed those in attendance on Monday afternoon.

It is a refreshing time of renewal and an uncertain time of great change. Thankfully, one thing that did not change over the cold offseason was the continued enthusiasm and love of Baltimore lore by the person who places the orange scarf around the neck and shoulders of the statue of Brooks Robinson at the downtown intersection of Russell Street and Washington Boulevard every Opening Day.

Aside from the thousands of baseball fans (or whatever they may be that day) you see filling the square, you know it’s Opening Day in Baltimore when you see the orange scarf on the statue of Brooks on the square.

And just as the annual glass of cognac with the toast at the grave of Edgar Allan Poe is on his birthday, Brooksie’s orange scarf is a Bawlmer thing, hon. And when it’s the baseball season in Baltimore, rebuild or no rebuild, there is only one toast to give — Ain’t the beer cold!

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT