Orioles come to grips with losing a family member


Mar 1, 2014; Sarasota, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis (21) bats in the second inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during a spring training exhibition game at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

The untimely, tragic death of Monica Barlow last week at the age of 36 should be expected to hang over the Baltimore Orioles for the foreseeable future. For me, it offered a study in contrasts.

My mother passed on last month at 91. Today, in fact, is a month since her death. She had been in declining health for the past three years, and particularly since last summer. She had lived a long, fulfilling life, leaving behind no regrets. She went peacefully and in no pain. Many things remind me of her and will continue to for a long time.

One of her favorite pastimes was to ask me how the Orioles were doing each time I would drop in on her. She talked about how much she missed “Brooks Robinson and all those guys,” with the time period of the team’s dominance being not only what she remembered most fondly, but the only thing she remembered. I was her dictionary for any topic related to the present day goings on of the team, not that she would remember what I would tell her. I would give her the team’s report card in general terms, the easier for her to remember from one time to the next, even though she didn’t.

Emotion did not visit me that much in the days following mom’s passing, except maybe when I would hear a song from her favorite era, the 1940s or ’50s.

And then, I heard about the death of Barlow, the club’s Direction of Public Relations. Thirty-six years old. Had had cancer for about the last five years. Most of her life stolen from her. From all the reaction I’ve read from the team, she would object to such a fuss being made over her.  I didn’t even know her and had never met her. But something about it brought a tear that had not even come to me during my own loss.  My own loss made sense, since it was the expected end of a very long life.

For the Orioles, nothing about this makes sense, as it shouldn’t. They might determine amongst themselves to play this season for her, even though she would disapprove of that. Evidence includes today’s 9-2 romp over Pittsburgh. The Birds are 8-2 including split-squad games, scoring 20 runs in a day-night pair of games against the Red Sox yesterday. Chris Davis is 8-for-15 with two home runs, Nick Markakis 10-for-16, J.J. Hardy 6-for-15 with a homer, and Jonathan Schoop 8-for-15 with a homer. That’s a combined 32-for-61 (.525) during camp.

Adam Jones, who only has one hit through 10 spring games, will leave the club Tuesday for the expected birth of his first child Wednesday. Congratulations all around. Lives end, and another begins.

Somewhere right now, mom wants to know how the team is doing. Paraphrasing a lyric from The Who, the bats are all right.