Tripple Overtime: LSLL Challenger O’s are more entertaining than any O’s team 1998-2012

Does anyone else remember the 14 straight years of losing seasons the Baltimore Orioles put together from 1998 to 2012?

I know I do. In fact, one of my first baseball memories — aside from finding out that Chris Hoiles lived a few neighborhoods over as a kid, and riding my bike over with my friends to play “ding dong ditch” until one of us got enough nerve to ask for his autograph — was the watching the infamous Tony Tarasco/Jeffrey Maier fan-interference moment go down on television, totally oblivious to the more-than-a-decade-long Baltimore baseball curse that would ensue.

But even though that curse — which I’m still not convinced had anything to do with the Toronto Blue Jays hat I once had to have for my birthday, for reasons still unbeknownst to me (I’ve never even been to Canada) — has since been lifted, and baseball in Baltimore restored to a resemblance of its former glory, there’s still a new group of “O’s” in town that rival the Major Leaguers in terms of entertainment value.

That’s right — unlike the fans who actually attended Orioles games from 1998 to 2012 — fans of the newly implemented Challenger League at Lower Sussex Little League are certainly getting some bang for their buck when they go see the “O’s” take on the “Birds” at the Pyle Center in Roxana.

I got to witness all the action on Saturday, June 6, when I went to check out the league’s first official game at Layton Field.

Now, I thought I knew what to expect, after an extensive conversation with Kevan and Megan Browne, who got the league off the ground, and seeing just how excited they were about it — but it didn’t quite hit me until I started to notice the look on some of the kids’ faces as they were rounding the bases.

Then I saw the look on the volunteers’ faces, the parents’ faces, those of the fans, brothers, sisters — all smiles, from ear to ear, and, from behind the lens, it was tough not to smile, too.

Even though they were either physically or mentally unable to participate on one of the more traditional LSLL teams, for one reason or another, they were having every bit as much fun — if not more so.

If they couldn’t hit a pitch, they hit off a tee. If they couldn’t hit off a tee, their “buddy” — many of whom are other LSLL members who volunteered to help out just because they wanted to — helped them hit off a tee. If that still didn’t work, they ran the bases anyway, with the Layton Field bleachers erupting just like Camden Yards does when Chris Davis goes yard.

The result was endless laughter, joking around, genuine fun — reminding me of a certain kid rocking a Toronto Blue Jays hat peddling away from Chris Hoiles house, cracking up with his buddies after ringing the doorbell.

And even though Kevan Browne now has a detrimental ERA to make up for, and probably won’t be getting an offer from the Yankees anytime soon, it doesn’t matter, because no one cares what the score is anyway — they’re just happy to be out there, just like I was, too.

Whether you’re an Orioles fan, a Nats fan, a fan of the Phillies… or, for whatever reason, the Toronto Blue Jays, it’s a long ways to get to a game from good ol’ Sussex County. But it’s a pretty cool thing we’ve got going at Lower Sussex, and with the Challenger League.

Getting to see everyone that showed up to cheer, all the other LSLL players who showed up to volunteer without any kind of incentive, and who then went on to ask when the next game was so that they could do it again, and everyone with a smile on their face, it really goes to show the incredible nature of the community.

It almost makes the movie “Field of Dreams” make sense, and finally clears up just what it was Kevin Costner was looking for — the simple joy that a game like baseball can bring.

I’ll take that over Camden Yards any day.