A perfect day in Fort Lauderdale

It cannot possibly get any better than this.

The late Chuck Thompson used to say before every game "It's a beautiful day for baseball." Today that statement rang true here in Fort Lauderdale.

The sun was shining and the temperature was in the 70s, with a slight breeze -- what more could you ask for? Maybe a win for the Orioles?

Yes, it disappointed a large population of the crowd, who were hoping for a Mets win. And it put another tally mark on Baltimore's side in the ongoing New York-Baltimore Rivalry (my dad is still angry about the 1969 World Series). The solo home run by Jay Gibbons in the sixth inning was the icing on the cake to a perfect game and a perfect day...or so I thought.

I have a tradition of going to the players' parking lot at spring training following the games and getting a few autographs. This afternoon I was afraid I would be disappointed because many of the players that I knew and wanted to see had left the game in the sixth inning, but I figured I would give it a shot.

The first player to come out was Brian Roberts, who signed for quite a few minutes; one woman even told him that she thought he was so nice she called him "The Perfect One." Well, I had experienced first-hand the niceness of Brian Roberts. While he was signing my book, I asked him if he would roll down his passenger window so that my dad could take a picture. Of course, he did.

Following Roberts was Jay Gibbons, who also signed the baseballs, t-shirts, jerseys and hats that were handed to him through the car window. There was a girl in front of me that had been waiting since the end of last season for the opportunity to have a picture of her with Gibbons signed.

At that point, I had everything I could possibly ask for from a day at the ballpark. A win, some awesome pictures and two autographs. Before and toward the end of each home game, the Camden Yards public address announcer makes a point of saying that Baltimore has the reputation of being the best fans in baseball. I agree with that, especially when I'm here at spring training. You might be surprised by the number of people that make the trip down to Florida for the games, even if it's just for one day. Spring training also gives many Florida residents the opportunity to come out and root for teams that they might not normally see.

Today is my last day in Fort Lauderdale, and I DO NOT WANT TO GO HOME. Maybe it's the four inches of snow and the high of 30-something degrees in Maryland or the fact that I have to go back to college tomorrow, that keeps me from wanting to leave. The traces of winter are still remaining in Baltimore obviously, and the fact that I'm forced to go back after four days in summer weather is not sitting well.

Maybe it's the fear that once I leave and spring training ends that the Orioles might disappoint again this season. I have every bit of hope though, that they will continue to keep hope alive and make something great happen this year. One thing is for sure: there's nothing more I could ask for after a day like today.

Throughout spring training, will publish reports by Orioles fans that made the trip to Florida for baseball's preseason. From Grapefruit League games to minor league camps, our crew of fan correspondents will weigh in with their spring training insights and experiences -- your source for a healthy dose of spring fever.