PressBox’s second annual Best of Baltimore Sports celebrates UMBC’s Ryan Odom and Jairus Lyles as Sportspersons of the Year and recognizes the top people, performances and moments of 2018.

Best Shot

Photo Credit: Brian Jenkins/America East

You have to imagine there’s more ice than blood running through Jairus Lyles’ veins.

You can forgive Vermont for not defending him tight in the closing seconds of the America East championship game, as he had driven to the basket a number of times earlier.

But Lyles had no issue calmly pulling up and drilling the game-winning 3-pointer, setting off the most memorable stretch in local college basketball history.

Best Upset

Photo Credit: Mitchell Layton Photography

We could do this “Best of Baltimore Sports” issue for another 50 years and there won’t be a more obvious choice for any category.

Perhaps the significance of the Retrievers’ shocker against Virginia was best described by UMBC lacrosse player Billy Nolan.

After his team beat No. 1 Albany just weeks after the NCAA Tournament upset, Nolan told The Baltimore Sun, “When you see something like that, it’s not just us that believe we can do it. Anyone out there watching TV believes anything can be done, really.”

Best Social Media Presence

Photo Credit: Courtesy of UMBC Athletics

The @UMBCAthletics account was so ruthless during the NCAA Tournament that the school had to at least consider a change from the “Retrievers” to the “Draggins.”

While you finish your groan, we remind you the department picked up almost 100,000 followers, thanks in large part to the efforts of director of digital media Zach Seidel, who has likely caused CBS Sports college basketball reporter Seth Davis (who “Sharpie’d” a Virginia win just moments after tip-off) more than a few night terrors.

Best New Facility

Photo Credit: Matt Stovall/PressBox

If UMBC had never even won the America East Tournament, 2018 would have still been a monumental year for the program.

The school opened the new $67 million UMBC Event Center in February, a spectacular 5,000-seat building that has also hosted concerts, professional wrestling, the circus and more.

What’s incredible is the opening was one of the most important moments in local sports all year and also maybe not even one of the top three moments for UMBC this year.

Best Team

Photo Credit: Mitchell Layton Photography

Since we’ve already recognized Ryan Odom and Jairus Lyles as PressBox’s 2018 Sportspersons of the Year, this is an opportunity to recognize the rest of the UMBC squad, including a supporting cast that would make “Arrested Development” blush.

Diminutive guard K.J. Maura was the straw that stirred the drink; Joe Sherburne knocked down more big shots than Robert Horry; Arkel Lamar and Jourdan Grant provided major sparks; Daniel Akin did the dirty work, and Nolan Gerrity was the ever-important dancing maniac providing the energy off the bench.

What a group.

Best Raven

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

No one on the Ravens rises to the best-in-the-league status quite like kicker Justin Tucker.

True, he missed a potential game-tying extra-point kick against the Saints, but Tucker remains the league’s best kicker. Of Tucker’s last 111 field-goal tries from inside 58 yards, he has been wide or short on exactly none of them; the only four misses were blocked.

With Tucker, and his consistent accomplices, snapper Morgan Cox and holder Sam Koch, the Ravens have distance and reliability that most teams simply can’t match.

Best Spark

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

The Ravens were 4-5 with quarterback Joe Flacco sidelined due to a hip issue ahead of their Nov. 18 contest against the Bengals that had the feel of an elimination game based on where the teams were in the standings.

That’s probably going to be a weird thing to try to explain when your grandkids ask you how it all started for Lamar Jackson.

He won each of his first three starts and rushed for 265 yards during that stretch.

Best Oriole

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

2018 marked the final year of a six-year contract for Orioles outfielder Adam Jones, who finished the season batting .281 with 35 doubles and 63 RBIs.

The fans’ love was evident during the last game of the season, when 24,916 fans came to Camden Yards to give Jones one standing ovation after another.

Jones also continued his commitment to the Boys & Girls Club and the greater Baltimore area. When Jones noticed on Twitter that the Washington, D.C.-based Mamie Johnson Little League team needed funding to travel to the Mid-Atlantic Regional, he donated $8,500 to help make it happen

Best Orioles Prospect

William Vaughan/Bowie Baysox

Lefty Keegan Akin was named the Jim Palmer Minor League Co-Pitcher of the Year in 2018 for his efforts with the Double-A Bowie Baysox.

Akin went 14-7 with a 3.27 ERA and struck out 142 hitters in 137.2 innings. He was also named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year. Akin may have an opportunity to parlay his performance into an opportunity with the big league club in the near future, especially with the Orioles in a rebuilding phase.

Best Female Terp

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Maryland field hockey senior captain Linnea Gonzales posted 14 goals and 33 points this year, leading the Terps to the national championship game against North Carolina.

A Bel Air native and Patterson Mill graduate, Gonzales started all 94 games of her career and helped the Terps to two Big Ten tournament titles, three Big Ten regular-season titles and four NCAA Tournament appearances.

She was named the Division I National Player of the Year by the National Field Hockey Coaches Association.

Best Male Terp

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Connor Kelly capped off a stellar four-year career for the Maryland men’s lacrosse program with a 46-goal, 36-assist season.

“This is the best program to be a part of, for any high school players, middle school players,” Kelly said at the end of his college career in 2018. “Maryland sets the standard for what it is to play college lacrosse — just hard-working, resilient and just so unselfish. I couldn’t think of playing for any other program.”

Best Female College Athlete

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Towson Athletics

The Towson softball team, which went 42-19 overall in 2018, had five players hit .319 or better, but no one produced more than senior center fielder Kendyl Scott.

Her 89 hits, a Tigers single-season record, were third-best in the nation. She was sixth in the nation in doubles (22) and eighth in batting average (.449). Scott finished her career as the Tigers’ all-time leader in hits (252) and runs (163) and helped lead the Tigers to their first postseason appearance.

Best Male College Athlete

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Johns Hopkins Athletics

The Johns Hopkins football team averaged 45.8 points per game and made it to the semifinals of the NCAA Division III playoffs for the first time in program history, and junior quarterback David Tammaro was no small reason why.

Tammaro threw for 4,111 yards on 67.2 percent passing along with 35 touchdowns and just seven interceptions during the Blue Jays’ 12-2 season.

He was the only quarterback in Division III to eclipse the 4,000-yard mark this year.

Best Two-Sport Star

Photo Credit: Larry French/Loyola Athletics

Loyola’s Pat Spencer is OK.

Not only did the Greyhounds lacrosse star win the Turnbull Award this year as the nation’s top attacker, he was also Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year, a first team All-American and a Tewaaraton Award finalist. Oh, and then after that he was a key part of the Stanton Center team in the Annapolis Summer Basketball League.

If we’re guessing, he can probably chew gum and walk at the same time. Backward.

Best Catch

Photo Credit: ENP Photography

With his 6-foot-4 frame, Towson receiver Jabari Allen has been an outstanding jump-ball target during his two college seasons.

But no catch was better than his spectacular, one-handed touchdown grab in the corner of the end zone against William & Mary in October.

In fact, the snag was so incredible even Hall of Famer Randy Moss feted Allen during ESPN’s “You Got Moss’d” segment two days later. They might soon have to change the segment to “You Got Jabari’d.”

Best Run

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

In September, Navy trailed Memphis, 21-9, in the fourth quarter with the ball on the Tigers’ 19-yard line.

Quarterback Malcolm Perry proceeded to fake an option, drop back, avoid a sack, take off, cut outside, stop at the line of scrimmage, split three defenders, cut back inside, plant, run parallel to the left sideline, shake another defender, shake two more along the sideline, cut back inside, bounce off his own lineman and score a touchdown that would galvanize the Mids en route to an upset win.

But other than all that it was a pretty typical play.

Best Turnaround

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

The Maryland men’s soccer team started off the season 4-5-3, as the Terps scored just 10 total goals through those first 12 matches.

But as the rest of us got very cold, the Terps suddenly got very hot. During their next 11 matches, they scored 20 goals and went 9-2.

That mark included an amazing run through the NCAA Tournament, during which Maryland didn’t concede a single tally en route to winning the school’s fourth NCAA championship in December.

Best High School Game

Photo Credit: Courtesy of The John Carroll School

The MIAA A Conference boys’ basketball semifinal between Mount St. Joseph and John Carroll Feb. 22 included several future high-major players, but this was Patriots point guard Immanuel Quickley’s night.

After the Gaels took a 78-77 lead with just seconds remaining in overtime, Quickley took the ensuing inbounds pass and drove the length of the court for the game-winning buzzer-beater. John Carroll won the MIAA title a few nights later against Boys’ Latin.

Quickley now plies his trade at Kentucky.

Best High School Female Athlete

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Franklin High School

A former gymnast, Franklin High School’s Nyjari McNeil came to running almost by accident, but it’s a good thing she did.

McNeil wrapped up her high school career in 2018 in spectacular fashion. At the Baltimore County championships, she won a third straight 800-meter title, a second straight 1,600-meter title and helped the 4×400 relay team to a first-place finish. At the state track and field championships, she captured her third straight 400-meter and 800-meter titles.

Now at San Diego State, McNeil is focused on the Olympics. And as she told PressBox, there’s only one way to get there: “Train.”

Best High School Male Athlete

Photo Credit: Bob Blanchard/

Mount Saint Joseph’s Jalen Smith entered the 2017-18 season as one of the most highly regarded prospects in the country, and the 6-foot-10 forward did not disappoint.

Smith averaged 23 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game and was named The Baltimore Sun’s All-Metro boys’ basketball Player of the Year and the Baltimore Catholic League Player of the Year. He also took part in the prestigious McDonald’s All-American Game.

Equipped with the ability to do just about everything on the hardwood, the Baltimore native is now playing down the road in College Park.

Best High School Girls’ Coach

Photo Credit: Courtesy of St. Frances Academy

Jerome Shelton guided St. Frances Academy girls’ basketball to the IAAM A Conference title in 2018, defeating McDonogh, 69-41, in the championship game.

The win marked the Panthers’ third straight conference championship. St. Frances also won the Bishop Walsh Girls Invitational Tournament with a 64-52 victory against Good Counsel.

The girls’ basketball coach since 1991, Shelton has led St. Frances to 11 IAAM A Conference titles and won more than 500 games. 2018 marked the Panthers’ third straight perfect season in the IAAM A conference.

Best High School Boys’ Coach

Photo Credit: Austin McFadden

The Franklin High School football team’s season probably didn’t begin the way head coach Anthony Burgos anticipated.

The quarterback the Indians expected to start transferred shortly before the first game of the season, but Burgos and new starting quarterback Vernon Brown led Franklin (12-2) to a state championship.

The Indians beat Linganore, 17-14, on a last-second field goal by kicker Simon Spath in the MPSSAA 3A title game. Franklin also won 3A titles in 2013 and 2014.

Best High School Upset

Photo Credit: Dave Pugh/Notre Dame Prep

The Notre Dame Prep lacrosse team didn’t simply win the IAAM A Conference championship when it beat McDonogh, 10-8, May 11 — it made history. The win ended McDonogh’s winning streak, which began in April 2009, at 198.

Notre Dame Prep’s Ellie Curry and Caitlynn Mossman scored two goals apiece.

“This was a massive win for our program,” defender Annika Meyer, then a senior, said later in the spring.

Best Dynasty

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Baltimore Blast

The Baltimore Blast won a third straight MASL championship in March, winning on the road in front of a raucous crowd against the Monterrey Flash in Mexico.

Goalie William Vanzela returned from a groin injury that had sidelined him for two months to earn the championship MVP.

It was the Blast’s ninth league championship since 2000. Even Alabama football has to be impressed by the Blast’s consistent dominance.

Best Surprise

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles

2018 was obviously a tough year for the Orioles, but a pair of special moments occurred during a two-week span in July.

The club announced Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson and Eddie Murray would return in official capacities as special advisers to the team.

Their returns alone couldn’t immediately fix the team, but the moves fortified hope that positive change truly is coming to the organization.

Best Comeback

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

No, Ravens training camp isn’t the same as how it used to be at McDaniel College. But after serious renovations to their training facility in Owings Mills, the Ravens allowed a few thousand fans per day to attend training camp in July and August.

The passes were gobbled up quickly, and most days were very well attended, despite the average temperature being roughly “pure hell” degrees.

Best Return

Photo Credit: Mitch Stringer/PressBox

Seven years ago, Maryland alum and former football coach Ralph Friedgen said he had “burned his diploma” because of how the school dismissed him.

It seemed as though the school would never reconcile with its third all-time winningest coach. But back in March that chill thawed, and the former coach returned to the university to speak at a coaches’ clinic.

He even told PressBox he was “flying [his] Maryland flag again.”

Best Goodbye

Photo Credit: David Sinclair/McDaniel College

During 38 seasons as McDaniel baseball coach, Dave Seibert won more than 500 games — which isn’t bad when you consider that when he was hired in 1981, he was only supposed to be a part-time replacement until a full-time coach could be found.

That replacement wasn’t found until he announced his retirement in February. He also spent 14 seasons as the defensive coordinator for the Green Terror’s football program during that stretch.

You get the feeling he’s probably the type who could do parkour and chew gum at the same time.

Best Facelift

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

The Ravens’ 2017 wide receiving corps was … not great, you guys. We’d use other, more fitting terms to describe it, but this is a family publication.

During the offseason, the team acquired the trio of John Brown, Michael Crabtree and Willie Snead without breaking the bank in the process.

The list of better decisions made in 2018 is “making a Black Panther movie” and “absolutely nothing else.”

Best Trailblazer

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Cassy Lopez

“Who is Cassy Lopez?”

Remember those four words. In a few years you’re going to be watching “Jeopardy” and the category “Sporting Firsts” will spawn the clue, “This Mount Hebron High School alum made history when she became the first woman to receive a Division I college wrestling scholarship.”

Lopez made history in May when she signed with Presbyterian College after a prep career during which she went 45-29 while pinning male opponents 32 times.

Best Overdue Recognition

Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Former Maryland basketball coach Lefty Driesell first became eligible for Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction in 1985. Thirty-three years later, the call finally came.

The “Old Lefthander” was inducted in Springfield, Mass., in September at the age of 86. You might think he would have been bitter about the wait, but he actually appreciated the attention that came as friends and family campaigned for him.

“If I’d had gotten in 10 years ago … nobody would know who I was,” he told PressBox.

Best Newcomer

Photo Credit: ENP Photography

It’s not just that quarterback Tom Flacco led Towson to its best season since 2013. It’s that he did it while also carrying the burden of being in the shadow of his older brother.

Yep. As you know, he’s the little brother of … former Orioles farmhand Mike Flacco.

He’s also now the school’s single-season passing touchdown leader after leading the Tigers back to the FCS playoffs. Perhaps you could say he was … elite.

Best Defensive Performance

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota had kind of a rough day against the Ravens in October. And by “kind of a rough day,” we mean “perhaps next time he’ll choose to take a personal health day.”

The Ravens tallied a franchise-record 11 sacks during their 21-0 win in Tennessee.

Linebacker Za’Darius Smith led the way with three. It was the first sacks-fest in Music City to be led by Kenny Young instead of Kenny G.

Best Close Call

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Entering their Nov. 17 matchup against then-No. 10 Ohio State, the Terps had lost their last four games against the Buckeyes by an average margin of 39 points.

What happened next was one of the greatest games in Maryland football history. And weirdly, all we can remember is the Terps scored a touchdown in overtime and lined up to go for two with a chance to beat Ohio State. Everything after that is kind of a blur.

It was an incredible effort from a team that had been an unimaginably difficult year.

Best Analytics Push

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Morgan State Athletics

Morgan State basketball legend Marvin “The Eraser” Webster was on the right end of a significant number of assists during an NBA/ABA career that saw him score 4,302 points.

But perhaps no assist was more significant than the one he got from a newly formed “Sports Analytics Club” at his alma mater Edmondson-Westside.

The club’s deep dive into his statistics helped start a push that led to Webster’s posthumous induction into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in November.

Best Un-Retirement

Photo Credit: Avi Gerver/Monumental Sports & Entertainment

After spending the 2016 season with the Guangzhou Power of the China Arena Football League, Virgil Gray decided it was time to shift to coaching. He spent 2017 with the Baltimore Brigade as defensive backs coach and special teams coordinator.

In 2018, Gray returned to the field and led the Brigade in tackles and pass breakups as the team made it all the way to the ArenaBowl.

And no worries for Gray — he would need to retire and change his mind about six more times before anyone starts complaining. He’s still Favre away from that.

Best Story We Couldn’t Get Enough Of

Photo Credit: Mitch Stringer/PressBox

If we’re being honest, it’s a little disappointing that Orioles Hall of Famer Jim Palmer wasn’t secretly the spawn of John F. Kennedy all these years.

But the story of the adopted Palmer (and wife Susan) tracking down his birth family through DNA testing was no less enthralling without that result. Not only did Palmer learn who his birth parents were, he ultimately met a pair of cousins as well.

Best Story You Haven’t Heard Enough Of

Photo Credit: Courtesy of U.S. Olympic Committee

After becoming the first American in more than a century to win 1,500-meter Olympic gold in 2016, Broadneck alum Matthew Centrowitz Jr. had a tough 2017.

Not only did he fail to qualify for the event’s final at the World Championships, he also battled a hamstring injury, an adductor issue and a viral infection.

But he bounced back very nicely in 2018, winning his fifth U.S. Championship in the 1,500 in June and getting back on track to defend his title at the 2020 Games.

Best Athletes You Should Know More About

Photo Credit: Eddie Keogh/IPC and Loren Worthington

Not only did Clarksville’s Tatyana McFadden win another Boston Marathon wheelchair division women’s title in April, but Mt. Airy’s Daniel Romanchuk decided to make some history of his own, claiming the men’s wheelchair title in the Chicago Marathon in October AND the New York City Marathon in November.

Just like that iconic line from “Wedding Crashers” said, “Crab cakes and wheelchair racing, that’s what Maryland does!”

Best Guilty Pleasure

Photo Credit: Rich Wade/Ring Of Honor Wrestling

In 2018, Ring of Honor Wrestling reaffirmed its commitment to the Baltimore area with a string of major moves.

Not only did the Hunt Valley-based company open a new training facility (the Ring of Honor Dojo) near Arundel Mills in June, ROH also hosted two well-attended pay-per-view events at the brand new UMBC Event Center in June and October.

Even if you aren’t into superkicks or crazy flips, you have to respect what the pro wrestling company means to the region.

Best New Addition

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles

If the Orioles end up finding young talent with the same success rate as they find radio analysts, their rebuilding process might not take very long at all.

The team introduced former closer Gregg Olson to the broadcast booth in 2018. “The Otter’s” mix of storytelling, personality and pleasant “homerism” was a welcome addition to a roster that had already been bolstered by the excellent Ben McDonald in recent years.

Perhaps a three-man booth could be an option in the future?

Best Streak

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

The last time an NFL team didn’t allow a single second-half touchdown during its first six games, Franklin D. Roosevelt was president. (And you perhaps haven’t heard, but offense has evolved a bit since the 1930s.)

The Ravens might not have been able to surpass the 1934 Lions’ mark, but it remains a remarkable accomplishment, even if — like every other streak — it had to also involve just a little bit of luck, too.

Best Inning

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

The word “immaculate” isn’t used much in sports. There’s some dumb Steelers thing and not much else.

In April, Kevin Gausman became just the fourth player in Orioles history to record an immaculate inning, needing nine pitches to strike out all three Cleveland Indians he faced in the seventh.

The Orioles have been on the wrong side of five immaculate innings all time, the first coming against the Philadelphia Athletics’ Rube Waddell in 1902. But you already knew that.

Best Debut

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

When Maryland’s Jeshaun Jones tallied rushing, receiving and passing touchdowns during the Terps’ win against Texas Sept. 1, he became the first FBS player to do that in his college debut since former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota in 2012. But the true freshman actually pulled it off on his first three career touches!

You can’t help but wonder if the Terps thought about putting him out there for their next kick return just to see if lightning can actually strike the same place four times.

Best Pro Performance

Credit: Courtesy of Minnesota Vikings

Former Maryland receiver Stefon Diggs hauled in a 27-yard pass and turned it upfield for a 61-yard touchdown on the final play of the game to give the Vikings a win against the Saints in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs.

It was the biggest “miracle” of the year, which is saying something considering this is the same year when an 11-year-old yodeling kid at Wal-Mart became one of the country’s biggest stars.

Best College Performance

Photo Credit: Courtesy of St. Bonaventure Athletics

Ironically, guard Jaylen Adams (Mount Saint Joseph) was having a terrible night. The Baltimore native was 1-for-15 from the field during the first 39 minutes of St. Bonaventure’s NCAA Tournament opener against UCLA in March.

But with the Bonnies and Bruins tied at 58, someone needed to be a hero. Adams calmly knocked down a long jumper that proved to be the game-winner, then iced St. Bonaventure’s first Tournament victory since 1970 with three more free throws during the closing seconds.

Best Olympic Performance

Photo Credit: Courtesy of USA Hockey

Just one Maryland native managed to medal at the Pyeongchang Games in February, but Rockville’s Haley Skarupa was golden.

Skarupa contributed in all five of the U.S. women’s hockey team’s games, including the shootout win against Canada for the team’s first gold medal in 20 years. Her victory tour included an appearance on “Ellen,” an Orioles first pitch and analyst duties as her beloved Capitals marched to the Stanley Cup.

So she had an OK year.

Best New Promotion

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles

Parents have to go through enough to get young kids to a baseball game, where they might be able to actually watch just a small amount of actual baseball between being asked for cotton candy, making bathroom runs and … having cotton candy thrown at their face.

The Orioles realized that making parents pay full price for those children was likely keeping some away. So in March, they announced the “Kids Cheer Free” program, perhaps one of the finest off-field moments in franchise history.

Best Minor League Promotion

Photo Credit: Bert Hindman/Bowie Baysox

The worst local moment of 2018 came in June, when five people (including beloved local sports reporter John McNamara) were murdered at the Annapolis office of the Capital Gazette.

While nothing could possibly lessen the horrendous impact of that day, many local teams jumped in to help however they could. The Bowie Baysox (a team covered by the newspaper company) donated 50 percent of ticket proceeds from their July 19 game to the Capital Gazette Families Fund and the Capital Gazette Memorial Scholarship Fund.

Best New Stadium Concessions

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles

Two beloved local brands made their stadium debuts in 2018.

Pappas Seafood brought crab cakes, crab dip, shrimp and shrimp salad to M&T Bank Stadium, and Pizza John’s arrived at Camden Yards serving … gloriousness.

And while we’re here, we should probably offer another thumbs up to the Ravens for completely reimagining their concession prices this season. May the trend continue

Best Stadium Improvement

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Remember going to your first game at M&T Bank Stadium in 1998 and making fun of your Uncle Mike because he was struggling up the ramps and kept yelling about needing an escalator?

Now remember in 2017 when you realized you weren’t in your 20s anymore and Uncle Mike was right? The Ravens finally solved this issue in November when their first escalators to the top level opened as part of the team’s three-year, $120 million commitment to stadium improvements.

Now you and Uncle Mike can go back to yelling about politics instead.

Best New Tradition

Photo Credit: Phil Hoffmann/Navy Athletics

In March, the Orioles announced a new partnership with the Naval Academy that included an Army-Navy baseball doubleheader at Camden Yards.

The newly established partnership led to a picturesque scene, as light snow fell in Baltimore during the games. The Orioles will play an exhibition game in Annapolis in 2019, and the Navy team will train with the Orioles during spring training as well.

It was perhaps the least controversial moment in all of 2018. Or ever.

Best Sports Trip

Photo Credit: Shawn Hubbard/Baltimore Ravens

Thousands of Ravens fans descended upon Canton, Ohio, in August to celebrate Ray Lewis’ enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (and the team playing in the Hall of Fame Game for the first time).

Lewis and fellow Ravens Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden provided those Baltimore fans with quite the thrill when they combined to perform Lewis’ legendary “squirrel” dance during his wild induction speech.

Sadly, the pair included none of Ogden’s legendary GEBCO Insurance commercial routine in the performance.

Best Anniversary Celebration

Photo Credit: Fred Silber

Nine hundred Orioles fans came together for the Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation and Sports Boosters of Maryland’s Evening with the ’83 Orioles gala.

The celebration of the last Orioles team to win the World Series included Eddie Murray, Ken Singleton, Scott McGregor, Tippy Martinez and more. Attendees enjoyed stories, such as John “T-Bone” Shelby’s account of how Al Bumbry took him under his wing.

Tickets to the event weren’t cheap, but the chance to celebrate a championship Orioles team proved to be … priceless.

Best Celebrity Fans Online

Photo Credit: Courtesy of TPindell and Ryan Sickler

Two particular local sports fans saw a significant rise in 2018.

YouTube star “Tpindell” (an Annapolis native and former college football player at Florida Atlantic) reached nearly 2.5 million subscribers thanks in part to his hilarious “Ravens Fans React To” videos.

And comedian Ryan Sickler — who played soccer at Liberty High School and now hosts “The CrabFeast” podcast — taught Joe Rogan about Baltimore accents in a clip that was viewed more than a million times.

Best Reason To Play

Photo Credit: Christian Jenkins/Volo City

As if “Cup In Hand Kickball” wasn’t reason enough, Volo City uses money it makes from its adult social sports leagues to fund free youth leagues in the community for kids ages 6-12 of all abilities.

Previously known as Baltimore Social, Volo City started with 16 people playing bocce in Federal Hill Park. It’s since grown to include adult and youth leagues in eight cities and is on track to reach 200,000 participants this year.

Best Postgame Tradition

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Eric Weddle @weddlesbeard on Twitter

Ravens safety Eric Weddle has always rewarded himself with postgame ice cream, but in 2018 he seemed to kick it up another notch.

Not only did he start using a specific “victory” bowl, his treats became more like confectionery explosions. After the Ravens’ win against the Titans in October, for example, Weddle combined a bowl of half strawberry and half birthday cake ice cream with crushed white fudge animal crackers, crushed graham crackers, marshmallow topping, sprinkles and even Lucky Charms cereal!

Best Visiting Event

Photo Credit: Washington Capitals Photography

Just about everything regarding the NHL Stadium Series game between the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs in March was perfect other than the brief power outage in Annapolis that impacted Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

The Caps won big, the gold medal-winning U.S. women’s hockey and men’s curling teams were on hand and the curling team even flawlessly delivered the puck to start the game.

There has been speculation the event could return to the Naval Academy in the future. We would suggest it happen annually.

Best Visiting Athlete

Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club

It might not have been quite as emotional for fans because it came on the heels of American Pharoah breaking a 37-year drought just three years earlier, but Justify’s run to the Triple Crown was no less incredible this year.

In fact, the Bob Baffert-trained horse’s win in the Preakness in May was even more impressive when you consider the fog was so thick even NBC’s high-definition cameras had a hard time keeping up.

Best Sports Book

Courtesy of University of Nebraska Press

There’s nothing new about the power struggle between a head football coach who craves control and a star player who has almost complete control on the field, but there are plenty of new stories in Jack Gilden’s “Collision of Wills: Johnny Unitas, Don Shula, and the Rise of the Modern NFL.”

Whether you grew up a Baltimore Colts fan or not, Gilden’s behind-the-scenes look at the tension between Shula and Unitas is worth a spot on your bookshelf.

Best Dentist For Baseball Fans

Photo Credit: Stan Charles/PressBox

Nobody likes going to the dentist, but baseball fans might feel differently about one dentist in particular.

Dr. Charles Fine of McDonogh Dental has treated Orioles legends Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer and Frank Robinson, but you don’t need to be a Hall of Famer to open wide for Dr. Fine. As your chair reclines, you’ll quickly realize this isn’t your average dental office as your eyes focus in on the soothing image of bat meeting ball.

No cavities? Now that’s a home run.

Best Inspiration

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chris Dachille

With a warm personality and constant smile, few people in local sports media are more respected than WBAL-TV executive sports producer Chris Dachille.

“Dash” publicly documented his battle with Langerhans cell histiocytosis (a rare form of cancer) throughout the year by poignantly discussing his realities and mixing in his perfect brand of humor. For example, in October he tweeted, “So, I have bone cancer pain AND no heat? How lucky can one guy be?” He followed that up with, “The heat was restored. Or in Glenn Frey terms, the heat is on.”

That’s why we love him.

Best Reason For Optimism In Birdland

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles

As the Orioles embark on a full-scale rebuild, Peter Angelos’ sons, John and Louis, have emerged as the new faces of ownership.

The team signaled a newfound emphasis on scouting and analytics with the hire of former Astros executive Mike Elias as executive vice president and GM. The team doubled down a few days later by brining on Sig Mejdal as an assistant GM.

Rebuilding a baseball team isn’t rocket science, but if it was, former NASA biomathematician Mejdal could probably handle that, too.

Local Athlete Making Us Proud

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Aaron Maybin @AaronMMaybin on Twitter

With complete respect to everything else recognized in this issue, the most important moment involving a local sports figure occurred just three days into 2018.

On Jan. 3, Baltimore native Aaron Maybin (Mount Hebron), the former Penn State star and NFL linebacker turned teacher at Matthew A. Henson Elementary School, posted a video to Twitter that provided a visual of how truly awful conditions were in the school. The video showed Maybin and the children all in coats with the kids detailing how they were “freezing” and one little boy heartbreakingly suggesting he had experienced “frostbite.” Heat wasn’t the only issue Maybin said Baltimore schools faced. He said many lacked basic drinking water.

“These are basic necessities that, to most people it’s like, ‘How could one go without these things?’ But our kids have been going without them for years,” Maybin told PressBox.

Maybin went right to work. A GoFundMe page he promoted raised more than $80,000 after an initial goal of just $20,000. He made contact with Amazon, which worked to provide every student at Maybin’s school with a new winter coat. And he gave our city’s kids hope while teaching them art.

Considering he made more than $12 million during his NFL career, Maybin doesn’t “need” to do any of this. But, boy, do we need him. And no touchdown, home run or anything else could remotely compare to what he continues to do for our city.


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