Although the whole team liked to throw it during warm-ups, the football belonged to left-hander Nick Vespi. It was a good one too, aged and faded but reliable, the leather still tacky despite all the use at Triple-A Norfolk.
But when Vespi received a call-up to the Orioles on Tuesday, football followed him to Baltimore. Now it’s being thrown around at Camden Yards instead of Harbor Park, and Vespi suspected Tides right-hander Grayson Rodriguez would buy another football for pitchers to warm up with.
The problem: That football would also likely follow Rodriguez, the game’s top pitcher, to Baltimore sometime this summer. And when that happened, the Tides were again without a ball and the cycle started all over again. So Ryan Blake, an Orioles fan running this Twitter account @OriolesFanProbzfound a solution.
He bought the Norfolk team their own football. That way, no matter who gets promoted, there will always be a football for the Tides.
“I know sometimes pitchers like to work on their arm strength by tossing a football across the outfield,” Blake said. “Small division teams are often moved and if the players are the ones providing the footballs, they will eventually move on like Vespi and take the ball with them.
“I thought it would be nice to give them a football that can stay in the clubhouse through transactions. Also, I think I’m a solid voice for Orioles on Twitter, so thought it would be nice to come from me on behalf of all the fans looking forward to the team’s future.”
Blake included a personalized note on the football himself, writing that it was sent “with love from @OriolesFanProbz and all of O’s Twitter.” Inside the box – which he mailed on Thursday – Blake added another note.
“I hear Vespi took team football to the bigs,” Blake wrote. “Hopefully you guys can stick with that as the roster is always changing. On behalf of Orioles Twitter, we support you all. ball forward. See you at the Yard!”
When Rodriguez initially thought he was going to buy the new football, he tweeted at the Ravens ask for a “small favor”. The favor eventually came from Blake in the form of a new football in the mail and a vote of confidence on behalf of Orioles Twitter.