Out of baseball following stints at Frederick Community College and Shepherd University (W.Va.) and still itching to play, Roger Dawson, then in his mid-20s, decided the best way to satisfy those cravings was to start his own squad.
Dawson, now the baseball coach at Brunswick High School, formed the Brunswick Orioles semi-pro team in 1990. Comprised largely of players from the Frederick area, the Orioles play in the Blue Ridge League of Maryland Semi-Pro Baseball.
“I still wanted to play baseball at 26 years old,” Dawson said. “That's why I put this team together and it's been a huge success over the years. I've been with them as a manager, player or playing manager from that time on. I'm 48 this year.”
Dawson's Orioles have enjoyed so much success over the years, in fact, that he was recently named to the National American Semi-Pro Baseball Association's Hall of Fame.
“It's a tremendous honor,” Dawson said. “I think with the national prowess we displayed in the early-to-mid 1990s and winning a national title in 2004 put the Brunswick Orioles on the national map.”
During his 12 years as the team's manager, Dawson compiled a 382-102 record while the Orioles have won 672 games as well as Blue Ridge championships in 1990, 1991, 1995, 2001, and 2003-2011.
The team also was crowned the Maryland State Semi-Pro champion three times, including 2004, the same year the Orioles captured the National Amateur Baseball Federation title in Louisville, Ky., with a 51-7 record.
That was “the first time a Maryland team in over 90 years was declared the national champion,” Dawson said. “For a small team like Brunswick to get out to that platform, it all fell into place. It was a great team win.”
Dawson's exploits with the Orioles didn't lie solely in managing and organizing. as he has been one of the team's top players as well. A second baseman for many years on the team, Dawson earned Blue Ridge Most Valuable Player honors in 1990 and led Brunswick in hitting five times. Dawson also earned All-America honors three times, the last coming in 2010 as the team's designated hitter.
“His dedication and love for this team is unmatched,” long-time Orioles player and former manager John Mangold said of Dawson, who batted .346 a year ago with 10 runs batted in and 17 walks. “He's more than deserving [to be inducted into the Hall of Fame]. He has put his heart and soul into the Orioles.
“This team has been one of the perennial powers in semi-pro baseball for the past 15-20 years. He doesn't do anything halfway. We're going to be the best we can possibly be and it's all because of his direction and his leadership and his passion for the game and for this team.”
It's that dedication to the Orioles that helped lead Dawson into the National American Semi-Pro Baseball Association's Hall of Fame, which hopes to establish its own museum by next year.
“Roger spends a lot of time in that program up there and having a World Series championship and [his accomplishments] as a player and manager alike — he excelled at both positions — and just to have the love of the game and to have the love to still go out and compete with kids [led to his selection],” said NASPBA President Tim Turpin. “He's the first living induction from Blue Ridge. It's a very deserving honor.”