The Baltimore Sun yesterday announced it’s choice for it’s annual “Marylander of the Year” award, and the winner was Buck Showalter, the manager of the Baltimore Orioles. You can read the Sun’s official write-up by clicking here, however I think there was more to this than just the Orioles’ amazing season. If that was the only criterion John Harbaugh of the Ravens should have won it every time the past few years. I think it goes well beyond just wins and losses, especially in a town like Baltimore.
The Orioles are special, and regardless of how well or poorly they do, they’ll always have a special place in the Baltimore psyche. First off keep in mind that as popular as the NFL is and as beloved as the Ravens are in Baltimore, baseball is a summer game that often invokes memories of vacation, lazy afternoons, etc. Furthermore in terms of local commerce, in most cases I would submit that a winning baseball team is going to be more important than a winning football team. There are 81 home dates in baseball, as opposed to 10 (including preseason) in the NFL. With the Orioles floundering for so long and attendance dwindling, many businesses in the area were starting to suffer as a result of people not frequenting them before or after games.
However this isn’t so much about business, and it’s certainly not about MLB vs. the NFL. It’s about one man: Buck Showalter. In a column during the postseason I made mention of something that Maryland native Scott Van Pelt had said on ESPN; his comment was that Showalter forced the Orioles to stand up to the Yankees. Whereas in the past we had heard managers say things such as, “…what can we do, we have to play Boston and New York 18 times a year?” Showalter put a stop to that, and made the O’s force New York to take them seriously. And that was a mindset that translated into the team starting to take itself seriously, and almost overnight they found themselves as a contender.
As the Sun pointed out in it’s write-up, Baltimore is a baseball town. Granted some of that support had eroded over the years given the 14 consecutive losing seasons, but Showalter’s magic started bringing people back. People became genuinely excited about the Orioles again, and that was good to see. Throughout the final month of the season the team started hosting “BUCKle Up” rallies around the community, which were in effect pep rallies to get people excited. There were kids that got to see the O’s winning and experiencing that feeling for the first time in their lives. That was all the result of Showalter’s magic touch.
Incidentally, when the people started coming back to the Yard to see the Orioles play, they started frequenting those businesses in the inner harbor again. Many restaurants and bars were filling up with orange-clad fans before and after games. Perhaps this is a little about businesses and civic responsibility after all; Showalter showed that he cared enough about the players and the fans to instill a certain attitude into these guys, and it translated into wins. Those wins translated into a city that had waited so long to fall in love with it’s baseball team again, and that wish finally came true. That was thanks to one man: William Nathaniel Showalter, the Baltimore Sun’s “Marylander of the Year.” Congratulations Buck!