Baseball fans: It’s almost Opening Day, and I’m conflicted. Maybe you can help me out.

Growing up in Northern Virginia, my formative years of baseball fandom fell squarely in the pre-Natitude era — I was a Baltimore Orioles fan through and through.

When games were on TV, I would sit cross-legged on the beige carpet of the family room, adjusting the antenna every now and then. When they were not on TV, I would move 10 feet over to a hardwood nook and listen to legendary broadcaster Jon Miller on my dad’s old shortwave radio. On special, big-game nights, I would stay up past my bedtime, hanging on Miller’s mellifluous words.

Those were the glory days of Orioles baseball. Over time, though, my fandom took a devastating one-two punch. As the O’s were run into the ground by disastrous ownership and the Washington Nationals arrived on the scene, my allegiance shifted to what by all geographic measures is my true hometown team.

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But these are confusing times, friends.

The Birds are flying high once again. Last year, they captured the American League East. This year, they harbor (pun intended) legitimate hopes for a World Series run. And nostalgia has come a‘knocking.

These days, visions of my favorite boyhood ballplayers dance in my head: Roberto Alomar, Bobby Bonilla, Eddie Murray, Rafael Palmeiro, Arthur Rhodes, Mike Mussina, Brady Anderson and the Iron Man himself, Cal Ripken, Jr. I can see Mike Mussina’s knuckle-curve falling off the tabletop and freezing batters like it was yesterday. “Moose” never needed a pitch clock. He was the epitome of my dad’s motto for the mound: Work fast, throw strikes.

I remember walking up to Camden Yards as a boy, hawkers on all sides selling water, popcorn, T-shirts, hats. Grabbing hot dogs and freshly squeezed lemonade on Eutaw Street (I used to think it was spelled Utah Street). Sitting in those pine green seats, I watched orange and black and white flash across the field.

It’s no secret, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a better ballpark than Camden Yards. The Orioles’ down years there just seemed wrong, out of place, like holding a sloppy kegger in a cathedral. Now everyone’s back in their Sunday best.

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And because it needs saying, I’ll say it just once: We wuz robbed. That didn’t happen on the walk to Camden Yards. I’m talking about that 1996 Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, when 12-year-old supervillain Jeffrey Maier reached over the outfield wall to transform a Derek Jeter fly ball into a series-altering home run. They say time heals all wounds, but I just put some fresh Neosporin on this one.

As a Nationals fan, what to do? Easy. I’ll be cheering for the Nats. But I’ll also be rooting for the Orioles in the American League. It’s not disloyalty or treason — if you’re a Nats fan, think of the Orioles more as crosstown complements than rivals, a wayward relation who has found their way again and invited you to catch up over crab cakes.

So perhaps this is more of a delicious dilemma than a real conflict of allegiance. I’ve got my Nats cap from the 2019 World Series run. And I know I can dig up an Orioles hat from my boyhood closet. Let’s go Nats. Let’s go O’s. And let’s hope they never meet in the World Series. That would be a problem.

Zach Przystup works for the Fulbright Program at the U.S. Department of State.

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