Archive for May, 2007

Going Deep in the Hole for Charity
May 27, 2007

e-mail Pete

Spent part of Monday afternoon at Hillendale Country Club for the Baltimore Celebrity Classic media outing. First a little background on the event, then the fun stuff.

Heading into its 3rd year the BCC boasts an impressive list of celebrities including Mike Eruzione, Cal Ripken Jr, Bobby Bonilla, and Fred “The Hammer” Williamson. They expect to raise many tens of thousands of dollars for the Federico/Belanger foundation thanks to the event this September.

The reason for the event comes from the most genuine and purest of motivations. Rob Belanger wanted to do something to honor the memory of his father. Mark Belanger died at the tragically young age of 54 due to lung cancer.

I never knew Mark Belanger personally but remember vividly his range deep in the hole at short for the Orioles and the very rare occasions that he hit a homerun. I actually saw one in person when I was about ten years old. No small feat given that he collected just 20 for his 18 year career.

In less glamorized fashion, but no with no less importance, he personified the right way to play the game. The Oriole Way. A quiet, no nonsense type who played through pain always willing to sacrifice for the black and orange. Simply put, you could count on Mark Belanger.

Those were my memories of him growing up as an Orioles fan. Then on Monday I learned about the eight time gold glover as a father. Now I admire him even more.

Spending some time with his son Rob was remarkable at first for the sheer greatness of their resemblance. It was like talking to Mark himself. I commented to Rob about it and he joked “never heard that one before” but you could tell the remark was a welcome one no matter how often he heard it.

Growing up in the Oriole family, Rob said he went to nearly every home game during the summer and that Sunday they would speed out of church just in time to race to the ballpark. Mark seemed to understand the gift he could give his children of including them in his fantasy world of Major League Baseball. After venturing into many clubhouses throughout the years, trust me, this is often not the case.

And so now Rob (quite a golfer himself, and unlike his Dad he can hit the long ball; 300 yards up hill!! No exaggeration) offers the ultimate tribute to his Dad with the Baltimore Celebrity Classic. While balancing a full time job, and his own family, Rob volunteers long hours for the foundation. It’s like he makes it Fathers Day year round. So if you’re looking for a cause to support, or just like to see some decent golf from guys you’ll know, check out the B.C.C.

The current crop of Birds may no longer demonstrate much of the Oriole Way, but honoring a man that personified the best of times in Baltimore baseball is worth some of our time.

Advertisements

NCAA Lacrosse; The spectrum of Maryland
May 11, 2007

e-mail Pete

The NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Tourney kicks off tomorrow. Nobody would call this a banner season for Maryland programs. Not one minute was spent at the top of the polls for any of the state schools. But what the state lacked in supremacy it dominated with depth. Six schools from Maryland earned berths to field. That’s six out of 16.

Johns Hopkins, Maryland, Navy, Towson, Loyola, and UMBC continue their seasons looking for a title. A group that spans the complete spectrum of tourney success.

The Blue Jays make the post season for the 36th consecutive years. I’m not sure I’ve ever brushed my teeth 36 straight days. For a little more perspective that fortunately lacks any references to bad hygiene, the next best streak belongs to Georgetown at 11. Another nugget to impress about the Jays, they’ve not only played in the tournament the last 11 years, they’ve earned a top four seed in each as well. Now that’s a dominant program.

Johns Hopkins opens up with tradition poor Notre Dame at Homewood Field. It’s a safe bet to pencil the Jays into the 2nd round. At least for head coach Davie Pietramala’s sake I hope so.

I talked with the only coach to ever win a championship as player and coach at the same school about this year’s tourney and you could see the weariness on his face. At some point I’m sure Pietramala sits back and enjoys his job. But only after he reaches at least the semi finals. With the Final Four returning to Baltimore, the pressure for Hopkins to play at M&T Bank Stadium on Memorial Day weekend grows with each day. Dave’s job includes far more than most. Reaching the tourney, not enough. Winning a game, not enough. The Final Four is acceptable, but really, only a title will due at Hopkins.

I don’t feel sorry of Pietramala. He knows exactly what is expected of him and of course wants to win more than any other human I’ve ever known. That said, you could see the weight of decades of tradition struggling to balance on his shoulders.

Just south of the beltway, UMBC preps for a rematch with Maryland. A little different atmosphere in Catonsville as the Retrievers own no such playoff history. In fact they own almost no playoff history, at least none worth bragging about. Three prior trips to the big dance but no victories. The energy though is that of complete possibility. They believe they’ll win on Sunday and leave their mark on the school’s history books.

I’d be very happy for UMBC Sports Information Director Steve Levy. For 21 years he has worked tirelessly to provide information and access to the media. Always a class act, it was clear talking with Steve what a win would mean to him and the program.