Going Deep in the Hole for Charity

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.

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