It’s the long shopping weekend before Christmas, and New Year’s is a little more than a week away. It’s time to put the 2012 baseball season behind us and set some goals for Orioles fans in 2013.
With that in mind, here are five things that every Oriole fan should try and accomplish in 2013. If you’re unsure about a last-minute gift, perhaps this will give you some ideas.
1) Go to spring training
I’m shocked at the number of avid Orioles fans who’ve never been to spring training. At Sarasota, you’ll find a mixture of visitors from Baltimore and local fans.
I’ll be writing more about visiting Sarasota in the coming days, but if you’ve never been, you should go. It’s a beautiful, intimate park in a terrific city with lots of entertainment option.
It will give you a look at some of the new Orioles as well as players you’re likely to see later in the year.
Packages are available that include airfare, hotels, rental cars and game tickets.
2) Go on the road with the Orioles
Many fans have never seen the Orioles wear gray uniforms or bat first in person. That can change in 2013.
Besides playing two games at Nationals Park, the Orioles play at parks that are a short drive, train ride or flight away from.
New York, Boston, Cleveland, Detroit and Tampa Bay are easily accessible, and if you’re looking for an inexpensive baseball weekend, try going to an Orioles-Rays series in June. Not many tourists in St. Petersburg, good tickets are easy to get and hotel rooms are inexpensive.
3) Visit the Sports Legends and Babe Ruth Museums
The two museums are located a few blocks away. The Sports Legends Museum is right next to the ballpark near Camden Street and has lots of great exhibits featuring not only the Orioles, but Ravens, Colts and the University of Maryland. It’s a great way to start off a day at the ballpark or get you in the mood during the winter.
The Babe Ruth Birthplace is a charming house where the Babe was born and it’s on Emory Street, featuring exhibits about Ruth. Seeing both in an afternoon, then watching a game would be ideal.
4) Go to the Baseball Hall of Fame
This is another place that avid baseball fans talk about, but many haven’t been to. Cooperstown, New York is about a 5 ½ hour drive from Baltimore, and while its most popular tourist time is in the summer, there’s lots of space to roam during the winter.
Because it’s so remote, people go there because they want to, not because they stumble onto it.
The exhibits are outstanding and many are contemporary, reflecting recent events. The Hall itself is impressive, and will naturally attract Orioles fans looking for the plaques of their greats, but the Museum is even better.
5) Go to some minor league games
When the Orioles are out of town, fans can do some of their own scouting of prospects. Several of the better current Orioles: Matt Wieters, Jim Johnson, Nick Markakis and Manny Machado played for some of the local affiliates.
Four Orioles minor league teams: Aberdeen, Bowie, Delmarva and Frederick are located in Maryland. While Delmarva is a healthy drive, about two hours, 15 minutes from Baltimore, the others are all within an hour drive of most areas.
Bowie features the best ball, and is the likely starting point for Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman in the spring. Major leaguers on rehab or in need of tune-up work often play in Bowie. Last year, Jason Hammel, Tommy Hunter, Mark Reynolds, Brian Roberts and Chris Tillman all played for the Baysox.
-The Orioles added yet another Independent League refugee when they purchased the contract of left-handed pitcher David Quinowski.
A 26-year-old one-time San Francisco Giants farmhand, who was 0-1 with a 6.23 ERA in 12 games with the Lincoln Salt Dogs and 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA in 20 games with the Gary South Shore Rail Rats. At Double-A Richmond, Quinowski was 6-3 with a 3.49 ERA in 2010 and 2011.