A Profound Loss For Birdland

On Saturday night at about 11pm, the world and Birdland lost a very good and kind man. Michael “Weams” Williams, Managing Editor of Orioles Hangout, passed away following a battle with stage-4 kidney cancer. He passed with his wife Denise by his side and with the joy of seeing the Baltimore Orioles defeat the New York Yankees by a score of 4-3.

Michael asked me to join him at Orioles Hangout a few years ago and told me that I was “hand-picked” by him to continue in his absence as he fought his illness. I was honored then and I am still honored by that. I am forever grateful to him for the opportunity he presented me with. (Site owner, Tony Pente, deserves my gratitude as well). My intention was only to keep Michael’s seat warm and that he would beat the cancer and return to the Hangout, God had another plan, however.

I never met Michael in person, something I will forever regret, but his passing has affected me deeply. I truly am at a loss for words. We communicated via email and Twitter mainly, but I did have a telephone conversation with him back in July. We shared similar tastes in music and even had a Twitter exchange of Yes song lyrics. I will forever consider him a friend and will miss him dearly.

You may ask, “how can the loss of someone you never met affect you so?”. Tony Pente’s tribute to Michael explained how that could be very eloquently. Michael had that way about him to connect with everyone. He genuinely was a kind and good person, humanity needs more people like Michael Williams.

Birdland lost one of their most devout fans on Saturday night. Michael loved the Orioles but not more than he did love his wife Denise, who he met fittingly at an Oriole game. Fate has a way of making things like this happen.

Orioles Hangout will never fill the void left behind with Michael’s passing. I know I will never be able to equal the standard he set for me; my goal now is to make him proud and live up to the confidence he had in me.

The outpouring of love and good thoughts for “Weams” are best read on this Forum thread at Orioles Hangout.

To Denise I want to send my deepest condolences, you are in my thoughts and prayers.

To Michael, Rest In Peace, my friend. Until we finally meet…..

Prayer for Eternal Rest (The Requiem Prayer)

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May the souls of all the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Rediscovering The Joy Of Baseball

My baseball “career” began as a manager, League Commissioner, Treasurer and umpire in youth baseball. I coached/managed my boys as they advanced up the in-house baseball ladder. I also managed a few travel teams.

The politics of a baseball league, parents who think their child is going to get a college scholarship at the very least and who think the travel team should be the reincarnation of the 1970 Baltimore Orioles, the back-stabbing and the general stress caused burn-out.

Once my youngest reached High School it was time for me to step away; he needed another manager’s voice in his head. The fact that he no longer had the time to play recreation/travel baseball and that he was aging out allowed me to step away.

I eventually turned to writing and blogging about baseball, especially the MiLB system of the Baltimore Orioles. The research and writing filled the void.

My oldest son reached out to me and asked if I would come out of coaching “retirement” to help coach my grandson’s team, the Hickory Fountain Green 7/8 Cardinals, in a game against the Twins. My help was needed due to the fact that it was First Communion Day for several of the players which meant the coaches would not be present. I agreed and I am glad I did.

I will admit that my experiences in youth baseball, especially in the later years, have jaded me. My personality, demeanor and teach-first philosophy really didn’t mesh in a league where the Commissioner was all about successful travel teams.

Yesterday I rediscovered the fun and joy of working with children who just wanted to play. I coached first base and worked in the outfield with the players.

It didn’t take long for the memories to come back to me. It was a chilly and windy day and after the first inning I heard the questions, “when is the game over, it’s cold?”, “what’s the score?” and “when are we going to bat?”. I quickly remembered how hard it was to keep this age group’s attention and to try to get them to stay on the bench.

I saw the players who were drawing designs in the infield dirt with their cleats, I had one tell me since he was in the outfield he was going to just step on dandelions and I even had a debate with the right-fielder at the time as to if balls were ever hit out there. I told him it was an important position and that the ball did indeed get hit there. The blank look I got when I told him to ask his dad about Nick Markakis and Roberto Clemente and their play in RF.

One boy thought it weird that his team was playing the Twins because he and his brother were twins.

The teacher in me came out as I watched both hitting and pitching mechanics (the league is a combo of kid pitch and coach pitch) and how to address them. Good plays were made, solid hits were had and I saw a few good arms on both sides. All in all it was an enjoyable experience and showed me what is good about baseball. I saw the pure joy when the first baseman caught a throw and the pride that comes with sticking with an at-bat and finally getting that hit.

The love of baseball is passed down in families and mine has gone for me to my sons and now to my grandson; hopefully I hav done something right.

The stress and rigors of my actual career as a Laboratory Scientist in a hospital lab during the Covid-19 pandemic were forgotten for a few hours and I have those boys to thank for that.

Reality struck when we had a play at first base where the first baseman fielded a ground ball and ran to tag the bag. Both players seemed to get to the base simultaneously and the runner was called safe. Instantly, one of the players on the field looked at me and said, “I want to see the replay”. I laughed and thought that was so modern day baseball.