A Swing and a Miss

Interviewing a baseball star isn’t as easy as it looks.

(Editors’ note: The author, a documented baseball fanatic, writes the Baltimore Orioles-related blogs NumerOlogy and Orioles Card “O” the Day.)

The night was unseasonably chilly and wet at Oriole Park at Camden Yards that Tuesday two weeks ago, but I was enjoying it from the comfort of the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network‘s private suite at the ballpark. The Orioles were hosting the Toronto Blue Jays, and I was one of a dozen guests invited to the network’s first “blogger night.” It was encouraging to see representatives of a more established form of media reaching out to us new kids on the scene.

There was a quick meeting with the announcing team of Gary Thorne and Buck Martinez, and a tour of the television production truck, not to mention the fully-catered and furnished box with a choice view of the action on the field. (Free food and beer is certainly the quickest way to any good writer’s heart.)

I actually did find time to watch some of the game in the midst of all of these bells and whistles. As Toronto took an early lead, I left my perch on the adjoining balcony to duck back into the suite and grab another Corona. But then I spotted a familiar face by the buffet: Al Bumbry.

This man patrolled the outfield in Baltimore from 1972 through 1984, played in two World Series and one All-Star Game, and ranks second in team history in stolen bases. He was the 1973 American League Rookie of the Year, a man who earned a Bronze Star as a platoon leader in the Vietnam War before he ever made it to the major leagues. I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to at least say hello to him.

The temporary press pass that hung around my neck said “NO AUTOGRAPHS” in bold letters, so I took a low-key approach. As he stood in the threshold between the suite and the balcony, I sidled up next to him.

“How are you doing, sir?” I asked.

He turned slightly and nodded. “Alright.”

Fishing for something else to say, I came up with: “What brings you here tonight?”

“Just hanging out,” he responded.

I think I sputtered out something like, “No better place for it.” I stood alongside him for a few more awkward moments before retreating back out onto the balcony.

It was great just to have met the man, but I should probably work on my interview technique.

Article © 2009 by Kevin Brotzman