This past weekend in a three-game series with Washington, the Orioles drew 133,983 fans in total (Fri-Sun). This comes on the heels of a 130K plus attendance weekend two weeks prior against Philadelphia. The difference of course is that the attendance statistic was helped by Philadelphia fans. There was a smattering of Washington Nationals fans in attendance at all three games this past weekend. However I’d put their numbers at 4-5 thousand per game give or take. All three games were pro-Oriole crowds. Not only that, however the fans were into the games. Granted the Birds had trouble scoring in each circumstance (albeit winning two-of-three games), however you could feel that the fans were begging to just blow the lid off of the place.
We’ve seen crowds like this in the past in non-Opening Day situations at the yard. I remember attending the second-to-last game of the season in 2004 against Boston, and there being a huge amount of buzz…as a result of the fact that the city of Boston had to have been empty that weekend. They had all transplanted themselves in the Baltimore area. I also remember a few years ago attending a late season weekend game against New York that had the same phenomenon. We all know those kinds of stories by now, however I often feel that rekindling the bitterness of those moments helps to make what’s currently happening with the Birds all the more sweet!
That aside, there was a definite buzz around downtown all weekend, and it wasn’t the result of the opponent. The Hardy, Jones, Markakis, Arrieta, etc. shirts were all around the city. (Sure there was the occasional Harper or Strasburg jersey but that’s to be expected.) Pickles and Sliders (two bars across from Camden Yards for those who don’t know) couldn’t have been more packed if U2 had been playing. If you think about it, this is really a great little story that Baltimore is writing for itself with this concept of winning baseball. I think that there’s still a school of thought out there that it could come crashing to a halt at anytime, but much less so than there was a month ago. Sure things could come crashing down at any time, and quick at that; but…what if they don’t?
The point of this column is to act as a kudos for the Orioles, but as well as for the fans. For so long there have been two schools of thought: 1) Put a winner on the field and people will come back, and 2) It will take more than just one season to make fans believe again. I think that both of these points are true in 2012. As I said above, there’s always that lingering doubt which says that things could turn south at any moment. So yes, perhaps there are some people that are having a tough time totally buying into this. However the fact is that they’re still coming out to the yard. Right here and right now, the Orioles ARE a winning team…and people are coming.
I think that a lot of folks underestimated the clout that the Orioles still have in Baltimore. The going idea was that due to 14 losing seasons the Ravens had eclipsed the O’s as “Baltimore’s darling team.” For all I know that might be true. However again, I think that the amount of love for this Oriole team has been underestimated. The Baltimore fans were just dying to re-embrace this franchise, and now they’re seizing the opportunity. The fans are coming back, and many are entering Camden Yards for the first time in years. While I do believe there’s something to be said for loyalty through thick and thin, to those folks I would offer a big WELCOME HOME!
One thing that Oriole fans will have to train themselves to do is to buy tickets in advance. I think that the days of being able to saunter up to the box office 30 minutes before first pitch (on weekends at least) and getting a ticket are over. This in itself is a good thing! Along with that, the days of ushers asking people to “tone it down” in the stands may well end as well. (Yes folks, that’s happened; I’ve seen it.) Anyone that attended any of the Washington games knows what I’m talking about when I mention the buzz in the stands. People were living and dying on every pitch. The anguish and joy on the faces of the fans at various points all indicates that Baltimore is once again falling in love with it’s baseball team. Whether or not this team goes to the playoffs in 2012 remains to be seen, however one fact is sure: they’re in contention. That’s all that most fans have been asking over the past 14 years.
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