Baltimore Orioles: The return of Nick Markakis
Up until this year, the fact that Nick Markakis would be patroling right field at Camden Yards as the Baltimore Orioles opened up a three-game set with Atlanta wouldn’t have been news. I suppose that it was always kind of pre-destined that Markakis would be in right during this series. However there is a twist to this story obviously, as he’ll be in right field in the last of every inning as opposed to the top.
As has been covered ad hoc here as well as on many other outlets, Markakis will be wearing the road greys and be reporting to the visitors’ third base side dugout and clubhouse at the yard tonight and this week given that he’s now an Atlanta Brave. Markakis of course signed a four-year deal with Atlanta this past off season, leaving the Orioles – the only organization that he had ever known.
First off, Orioles fans in no way should blame Markakis for leaving. He was offered a great deal in Atlanta, and one that the Orioles would have been foolish to match at that. In fact, his contract was voted the worst (meaning the least team-friendly) of the off season by MLB GM’s. That’s just another way of saying that Atlanta got ripped off. So in essence, I’m also saying that fans shouldn’t blame the Orioles for not bringing Markakis back.
Markakis also made some unfortunate comments in the wake of signing with Atlanta, which perhaps justly angered many Orioles fans. However I would submit that Nick Markakis’ body of work with this franchise is too strong and thus too important to simply discard it due to him expressing his opinion about why the O’s didn’t bring him back.
Courtesy of H. Darr Beiser-USA TODAY Sports
If you’re looking for a “true Oriole,” look no further than Markakis. His conduct on and off the field embodied everything that Orioles fans look for in their players. I’ve spoken to many people who have told me they thought he was “standoffish,” or in some cases even rude. But nothing could be further from the truth. He’s simply what we, who’s every step and move isn’t put under the microscope of celebrity, like to call shy. And I say that with compassion, because I myself and the same way.
Markakis’ wife and kids still live in the Baltimore area, so this will also be a few days where he can visit with them and sleep for a few nights in his own bed. So I suspect that it was a very joyous evening in the Markakis household last night when Atlanta arrived here on their team charter from St. Louis. Not only did Nick get to see his wife and kids, but he got to drive presumably in his own car to his own home.
These kinds of stories aren’t uncommon in sports today, as numerous athletes return to their old homes to play their old teams. Most famously in recent history we can look to the NFL and see Brett Favre playing at Lambeau Field as a Minnesota Viking. I suspect that it’ll be a surreal experience for Markakis, especially tonight in the first game of the series. He’ll be in such a familiar place, but it’ll just be different. He’ll run into the third base dugout, have a locker in the visitors’ clubhouse, but yet be playing right field in a place so familiar to him.
And make no mistake about the fact that Atlanta has an advantage over the Orioles in that sense. Right field at Camden Yards does have it’s challenges, and I would submit that the ballpark has seen no better right fielder in it’s history than Nick Markakis. Regardless of who’s playing right field for the Orioles tonight, the visiting right fielder will have much more experience in that position. Thus he’ll have a better idea of how the ball will careem off the wall, bounce, etc.
Orioles fans have seen instances like this before; I recall the return of Eddie Murray as a visiting player with Cleveland (1994), as well as that of Bill Ripken a year earlier. It’s always tough to see a beloved player wearing another uniform, however that goes both ways. When you’ve played your entire career in one place and you’re then forced to come back to that place as a visitor and compete against your friends, it just feels strange.
There will be some weird moments for Nick Markakis over the course of the next three days. However that’s also true for Orioles fans. This guy meant a lot to this franchise and it’s fans for so long, and now the people are forced to root against him? However as the character Hyman Roth famously stated in The Godfather Part II, “…this is the business that we have chosen.”
My sincere hope is that when he comes to bat for the first time as a visitor tonight, the game pauses for just one moment and Markakis gets a standing ovation. Make no mistake about the fact that he deserves the opportunity to have that moment, and to reciprocate the sentiment by doffing his cap to the crowd. And bear in mind that such a scene would also reflect well upon the Orioles fans. As opposed to saying “…you left us we don’t want you anymore anyways”, the image of Baltimore in essence saying “THANK YOU NICK!” would send a much more positive message. After all, Nick Markakis is and always will be a TRUE ORIOLE.
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