A Dream of Fields 4: The Baltimore Orioles

For the fourth entry in this summer series, I give you a tale of first dates and long-lasting streaks. A tale of long car rides and gutsy What-Ifs. And a tale of when the dream of fields really started taking form.

Saturday, July 19, 1997, 1:15pm

Oriole Park at Camden Yards

04Orioles

Baltimore Orioles 8, Chicago White Sox 3

This will be one of a handful of entries that references my ex-wife. She played a part in the dream of fields, so it wouldn’t be factual to omit her. Though we’re no longer married—and haven’t been for quite some time now—I’m able to look back on certain times together with no negative emotions whatsoever. In fact, this trip to Baltimore was loads of fun, even if I planned it only days after our first date.

Yeah, you read that right.

Backtrack about three months to April, 1997. It was my first year teaching, and though it wasn’t her first year teaching, it was her first year teaching in the same school that I was. That’s how we met. Eventually, I built up the courage to ask her out, and our first date was during the starting weekend of April vacation.

Two days later, I was taking a road trip to visit my Minnesota Twins friend, who was living in Hampton, Virginia at the time. I knew I’d be driving through Baltimore, and I knew that the woman I had just gone on a great first date with was an Orioles fan. In particular, she was a fan of Cal Ripken, Jr. Can’t fault her for that because if there was one player that exemplified everything good about baseball—particularly a strong work ethic since it was two years after he broke Lou Gehrig’s record of consecutive games and a year before he ultimately ended his streak—well, that player was Cal Ripken, Jr.

So I had this plan to buy her a pair of Orioles tickets for later that summer. Yeah, it was a gutsy move. What if we weren’t dating then? No matter, I’d go anyway with a friend, or I could meet a friend in Baltimore for the game. What if she thought my planning of a weekend away together after only one date was far too forward? Well, I didn’t have to spring the tickets on her right away; I could see how the relationship progressed.

I left the Providence area on a Monday morning at 8am with a full tank of gas in my little red Plymouth Sundance. I didn’t hit any real morning rush hour traffic, and I went over the George Washington Bridge at around 11am. With only a couple bottles of water and a box of chocolate chip chewy granola bars (which I ate one whenever I crossed state lines), I drove straight to Camden Yards. No stopping for food, gas, or bathroom breaks.

Needless to say, I needed all three of them when I got there.

I bought the pair of tickets, and three months later, we went to Baltimore. Cal Ripken, Jr. played, the Orioles won, and we had a fabulous time. Baltimore is a pretty city, especially around the Inner Harbor. Whenever we later traveled anywhere on the East Coast (Washington D.C., Virginia), we stopped in Baltimore for a day. And Camden Yards is a gorgeous ballpark, with that iconic warehouse beyond the outfield where they’d hang banners showing how many games into the streak Ripken was.

My marriage ultimately ended, lasting more days than the number of games in Ripken’s streak. I have no regrets—in fact, I feel extremely blessed—because I have the three most remarkable daughters because of that marriage. They love going to baseball games, but for financial and crowd reasons, we’ve only gone to Pawtucket Red Sox games (Boston’s AAA team). I intend to take them to Fenway Park someday, and eventually, I’ll indoctrinate them into the dream of fields. Maybe we can go see an Orioles game sometime.

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Check out the other posts in this series:

  1. Boston Red Sox
  2. Minnesota Twins
  3. Los Angeles Dodgers

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