O's most memorable stories of 2011

Everybody feels reflective at this time of year. It is human nature to look back and take stock of what we did or didn't do with our lives as the calendar turns to another year. I always think back over the big stories I covered over the course of a long baseball season. A handful always stands out in my mind.

Here's my list of the top three Orioles stories from 2011. Feel free to give me yours.

The first is my best memory of 2011. It happened Sept. 28, the final day of the regular season. Robert Andino's RBI single in the ninth inning single-handedly ended the Red Sox's postseason hopes.

Almost simultaneously that night, the Rays came from being down 7-0 to the Yankees to take the American League wild card. It capped a historic September run for the Rays in which they overcame a nine-game deficit early that month to make the postseason. No team in major league history had ever overcome such a deficit before.

It's such a great memory because I can't remember Camden Yards that lively in late September since I was a teenager. It was an amazing finish to witness first hand.

The second most memorable story of 2011 was my worst memory of not just the year, but my entire career. On Aug. 24, Oriole great Mike Flanagan tragically took his own life. Many of you saw the emotional MASN broadcast shortly after Flanny's death. It was the hardest show I've ever had to do. I never imagined in my life I'd have to announce the death of a friend on live TV. It was a horrible day and I hope fans remember Flanny for the joy he brought to the game, not for the way his life ended.

My third biggest story is the emergence of Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy. How big was that trade for the O's? I, like many, thought Hardy was a good acquisition when Andy MacPhail traded for him last December. I'd seen Hardy play the year before in Minnesota and thought he was a gamer, but never did I think he'd hit 30 home runs. His power was a huge surprise and combined with his stellar defense (six errors all year), the O's finally have the shortstop position locked up through 2014.

MASN programming note: Tune into "The Mid-Atlantic Sports Report" on Friday from 5:30-7 p.m. as Roch Kubatko and I look back on not just the biggest O's stories of 2011, but the biggest stories from the entire sporting world.

Happy holidays, everyone!