Sunday, Baltimore Orioles fans awoke to the sobering reminder that Nick Markakis' regular season has come to an end due to a broken thumb.
For those who have not gotten word, New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia struck Markakis in the hand with a 93-mph fastball in the fifth inning of Baltimore’s 5-4 victory Saturday at Camden Yards.
Many in the Orioles clubhouse took losing Markakis pretty hard, as reported by Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun.
Bird’s skipper Buck Showalter could be seen giving Markakis a fatherly hug in the dugout when Markakis emerged from the trainer’s room with a brace.
Showalter talked about losing Markakis during his postgame press conference (per MASN):
It’s emotional for all of us because we know how much he means, and more importantly, how much the Orioles mean to him. He’s been here from the start and to get this opportunity…If I know our guys, they’re going to rally around him. He’s a special breed. We’re lucky. The more you manage, the more you’re lucky to have a guy like him.
So the Orioles—though always resolute—are obviously hurting from losing their veteran leader. And many Orioles fans cannot help but wonder if Sabathia hit Markakis on purpose to crush Baltimore’s morale.
Leave that question to generators of controversy.
The bigger question for bird's in the wake of Sunday's brutal 13-3 loss to the Yankees, is how will Markakis’ season-ending injury impact the team's morale long term?
While some look at things with a glass half-full approach, others are not so optimistic. Markakis was not just a great player, he was also a spiritual leader on the field. It is indisputable losing Markakis hurts badly.
So how to inspire a team fresh off two tough losses in less than 24-hours?
Here is my two-cents.
Monday is an off day for the Orioles, which will give this proud team time to reflect and adjust before playing the Tampa Bay Rays for a critical three-game set at the yard.
What would be neat is if Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis came to speak with the Orioles before Baltimore takes the field Tuesday night.
Talk about a guy who knows about loss, injury and fighting through adversity. Lewis is a football thoroughbred and a proven winner. He also oozes passion, not just for football, but for life in general.
Lewis is a man who has inspired countless people in the Baltimore community. He has lifted many people from the deepest depths of despair to believe that with faith, passion and courage, people can move mountains.
While the Orioles do not face Mount Fuji, losing Markakis forces Baltimore to run uphill toward the postseason.
But perhaps a speech from an iconic figure like Lewis may help Adam Jones and Co. climb a seemingly long and winding road toward the mountaintop.
Lewis has stood on that mountaintop. And Showalter is a bedrock figure. These forces combined could give this young, aspiring team all the inspiration it needs to take the MLB mountain by storm.