Though I have never met a Baltimore Oriole, I have a brief, personal connection with one specific Oriole — Cal Ripken, Jr.
In 1998, on summer break from the University of Richmond, I took a job with GEFA (formerly First Colony Life Insurance) in Lynchburg, Virginia. It was a job in their financial accounting department, and it basically amounted to applying payments to customer accounts.
Early in my time there, maybe my second week, I was at lunch with several other summer break college students in my department. At the span of almost twenty years, I can’t tell you their names. We had a conversation that went something like this.
PERSON 1: I’ve heard that Shaq has an account here.
PERSON 2: Shaq? I love Shaq!
PERSON 1: Michael Jordan, too.
PERSON 3: They’d never let us work on accounts like that.
ME: I have to agree with that. We’d never deal with someone famous.
PERSON 2: Why do you say that?
ME: Because we’d have access to their personal information anytime we accessed their accounts. Phone number. Address. All of that.
PERSON 1: Yeah.
PERSON 3: Yeah.
PERSON 1: I bet only people who have been here for a long time and are trusted get to work with famous people.
PERSON 2: Damn. I love Shaq!
A few mornings later, a stack of paperwork dropped on my desk. The payments to process that day.
I worked through the pile. Punch in the account number. Compare name on the data screen (in OS/2 Warp!) to the name on the paper. Enter payment details. Process. Repeat.
Two hours in, I punched in the account number. Read the name on the screen. Blinked. Read the name on the paper. No, I hadn’t made a mistake.
Cal Ripken, Jr.
All of the personal details were there on the screen — his address, his phone number, his beneficiaries, the amount and type of the policy. I read it. I did not commit any of it to memory.
I applied the payment. I put the paperwork in the completed stack. I moved on.
A month later, a stack of paperwork dropped on my desk. Payments to process. In the afternoon, there was Cal Ripken again.
Then, my next to last week before I went back to Richmond, in my daily paperwork, there was Cal Ripken.
In 2007, I won tickets at work for Opening Day at the Aberdeen Ironbirds. I called up my dad, and I took him to the game; we had seats in the first row, right behind home plate. During the pre-game ceremony, fifteen feet away from me on the other side of the screen, there was Ripken. I smiled. If he saw me — or even noticed me — he have had no idea who I was, that for three months in the summer a decade before I had been the person who kept his life insurance policy up-to-date.
As encounters with an Oriole go, mine is a strange story, but it amuses me to think of it.