For a Baltimore Orioles fan, taking their kids to their first game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards is like a pilgrimage, a once-in-a-lifetime orange-and-black-spangled event.

I was looking forward to the game, but even more so to a stop I wanted to make before we even got inside the stadium gates.

“Look, baby!” I said excitedly to my almost-four-year-old son on his first visit as I pointed at a tall, distinguished-looking statue towering over a plaza at Russell Street and Washington Boulevard. “It’s Brooks Robinson!”

My kid squinted up at artist Joseph Sheppard’s sculpture, glinting in the June sun.

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“That’s not me!”

It’s true that Brooks Calbert Robinson Jr., legendary Orioles third baseman and “Human Vacuum Cleaner,” is not the same person as my son, Brooks Robinson Streeter-Zervitz. One’s an 85-year-old Hall of Fame baseball icon and the other is a 9-year-old third grader and Little Leaguer.

But there is a connection: The elder Brooks means everything to Baltimore, a city that means everything to me, a native daughter and semi-recent returnee. And giving my son that name has not only connected him to Baltimore, but to the memory of the guy who named him, our late husband and father Scott Zervitz, who died in 2015 when our Brooks was not quite 2.

As the Orioles hold “Thanks, Brooks Day” Saturday at the stadium to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the legend’s retirement, I have so much to thank him for, too.

When we met the month-old baby who would one day be our son, after waiting so long to be parents, Scott and I started making breathless plans. He was going to play baseball. He was going to be funny. And his name would be Brooks Robinson, after Scott’s favorite Oriole.

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My husband was impressed with the original Brooks not only as a ballplayer but as a white man who publicly befriended teammate Frank Robinson, a Black man, in the racially turbulent 1960s. That took guts, but Brooks’ deliberate embrace of Frank forged not only a lasting friendship but a model for what relationships between Black and white people could look like. Scott, as a white Jewish guy married to a Black woman he first met in ninth grade at Baltimore City College High School, there was no more perfect name.

Scott wouldn’t live to see that day in a Baltimore County courthouse in July 2016 when Brooks, who was born into my family here in Baltimore and came to live with us in Florida when he was six months old, officially became my son through adoption, and officially became Brooks Robinson Streeter-Zervitz. He had died of a heart attack nearly a year earlier to that day, and I threw my grieving heart and maternal fierceness into making sure that this child would know the man who wanted him in his life so badly.

And one sure way to do that was through baseball, and the original Brooks. I wrote a letter to Mr. Robinson to tell him about this little boy, whose father loved him so much that he gave him his hero’s name. I wrote that Scott “always said that he wanted to one day tell you the story of our boy, and how he came to be named Brooks. So now it’s my job … I needed you to know that you meant something to Scott, who was the most generous, loving and sports-obsessed person I know, who wanted to pass something good and pure down to his son. So I know that Scott would want me to tell you about our Brooks … I am proud that my son has your name, Sir. Be well, and go O’s.”

Soon after, we got a beautiful autographed photo with the inscription, “Brooks, I’m honored you have my name. Hope to say hello one day soon.” My Brooks didn’t quite understand why I was crying when I gave it to him, but he came to understand that the other Brooks, whose baseball cards and likeness dotted our home, was important.

He remembered that when his uncle and I took him to Camden Yards that day in 2017, and three years later when we were asked to take part, with a lot of other little Brookses from around the country, in a special virtual birthday salute to the original. Scott would have loved that.

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And two months later, when my Brooks and I moved back to the city of our births in the midst of a pandemic, having that name cemented his ties to some place he didn’t remember. The first time he went to baseball camp I asked for Brooks and was asked, “Which one?” — because in Baltimore there is often more than one. I knew we were home. Earlier this year, on his first Little League team, his coaches were giddily proud to present him with the jersey No. 5, just like Mr. Hoover himself.

We still haven’t had the honor of meeting Mr. Robinson, but six years after my letter, I would like to thank him for his indelible legacy of sportsmanship and friendship, of his devotion to this ball club I love, and mostly for what he meant to my husband and what he now means to my son. Brooks may not remember his dad, a cruel stab of fate that I’ll never get over, but he’ll remember that he chose a noble and very Baltimore name for him.

He’s not the guy depicted on that statue, but I very much hope he takes after him.

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