Cumberland Times-News

Columns

September 28, 2012

For the love of Birds, dreams do come true

Whenever the Baltimore Orioles are on the West Coast or play a late game, I can always count on hearing from Dot Yeager the next day, and on Tuesday, Sept. 18 she was money in the bank once more.

“Hello,” she said. “Will you please tell me the score of the Orioles game from last night? I went to bed in the fourth inning when it was 7 to 1.”

I told Dot that the Orioles had gone on to defeat the Seattle Mariners, 10-4, but before I could ask her how her recent trip to the ballpark went, she had something to say to me.

“The last time they went to the West Coast (the first week of July), you said, ‘I think these Birds are through. The wheels are starting to come off the cart,’ and I said, ‘No, no, no. They're just going through a rough spot. I believe they’re going to keep winning.’

“Well, they have kept winning, just the way I told you they would. And I believe they might as well just keep winning.”

Guilty as charged, for as Dot reminded me, the Orioles have produced one of the most magical seasons in club history, climbing from the depths of 14 straight seasons of losing to become season-long contenders. They talk about Orioles Magic a lot in Baltimore these days, and Dot Yeager will tell you Orioles Magic is real. The 97-year-old resident of The Kensington and lifelong Orioles fan knows it is real because she experienced it firsthand Thursday, Aug. 9 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards when the Birds took on the Kansas City Royals.

Making her first trip to the ballpark since 1972 when the Orioles-Yankees game she was attending was rained out, Dot, thanks to The Kensington’s program director Heather Raley, who started a “Bucket List” program for residents a year ago, finally saw her first baseball game in person. But that was only part of the thrill.

Through the Orioles’ Community Initiatives Program, Raley arranged for Dot to meet Orioles rookie third baseman Manny Machado, who was about to play in his first big league game and who autographed the back of Dot’s Orioles T-shirt. Then, after receiving some pointers from Machado, she was given the assignment of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch of the game.

“It was awesome,” Dot told me after reminding me I should have more faith in her Birds. “It’s something that I’ll never forget. It was a great experience for me. In the first place, when I got to the stadium they took me out there through the entrance and I raised my head and I started to cry.

“My daughter said, ‘Mom, what’s wrong?’ And I said, ‘Not a thing. I’m just happy.’ ”

Dot joined the ranks of Presidents of the United States, star athletes, movie stars and rock and roll performers who have thrown out the first pitch of a major league baseball game. And prior to her first pitch, just as those presidents, star athletes, movie stars and rock and roll performers all have, Dot was feeling some major league pressure.

“All these people were looking at me,” she said, her voice and her laughter lifting at the memory. “And the thing about throwing the first pitch, I was up so high and I said, ‘I don’t want to drop this ball.’ So I started to toss the ball up and down the way the players do to get myself calmed down.

“I looked around and people were screaming and clapping and laughing, and I thought, ‘I might as well do it.’ So I took the ball in hand and tossed it, and it went right over homeplate. The catcher, No. 58, looked as surprised as I was.

“It’s a thrill I will never forget.”

Dot was also the media star of the night, as she was interviewed and featured on the WJZ 11 o’clock news that evening.

“It’s a magical night for Dorothy ‘Dot’ Yeager,” reported WJZ’s Kai Jackson as Dot’s image filled the TV screen. “She’s at Oriole Park, about to watch her beloved team play the Kansas City Royals.

“But this is no ordinary game for her and she’s not quite your average fan. So why is she on the field, why the pictures and all the special attention?

“Yeager, who lives in Cumberland, is taking part in a Bucket List Program. On Thursday night, the 97-year-old got her wish to meet the Orioles and see her first game at Camden Yards.”

“I started listening to the games with my dad,” Dot told WJZ. “I was ready to go into junior high school. And I have been an Orioles fan ever since then.

“And I’m just anxious to be here and see this great stadium and know that I’m watching my Orioles.”

The Orioles lost to the Royals that evening, 8-2, but Dot was not discouraged. She understands that over the course of 162 games a team’s going to experience a rough spot or two. Nor did the loss put a damper on her magical evening, thanks to her friend Heather Raley and her own Baltimore Orioles.

“Matthew, the young man from the Orioles (Community Initiatives Programs) treated us so beautifully,” Dot said. “Everything was absolutely superb, and my daughters made me a book about the entire evening and it’s absolutely lovely.

“People are still talking to me and calling me. It was awesome. It was superb. There are words I can’t even describe. It’s so wonderful that my dream came true after all these years.”

Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at mburke@times-news.com

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