As a 20 year old, I unfortunately don’t have any memories of winning Baltimore Orioles baseball. A theme that you’ll often hear on talk radio in Baltimore is that the Orioles have lost a generation of potential fans in the area because no young people have ever seen even a decent Orioles team.
And yes, it’s certainly true, that for the people in the Baltimore area my age and younger, we’re still waiting for a winning baseball team. For me, the last time the Orioles had a winning season, I was six years old. The Orioles fans amongst us will always be Orioles fans, but for once, we want to know what it’s like to go through an entire summer with our favorite baseball team engulfed a pennant race. We want to feel what it’s like to go to a packed Camden Yards in September with the playoffs on our minds because all we really know of is a beautiful yet largely empty park.
We’ve had competitive Ravens teams, and one such Raven team even won a title. But we want to be a part of a pennant race that shifts daily because every day, your favorite baseball team is there waiting for you on the television, the radio or at the park. I’d imagine that for sports fans, there’s nothing quite like when their baseball team is competing every day for a playoff spot – especially when the home stadium for that team is Camden Yards.
The Orioles are often referred to as a “sleeping giant.” Young baseball fans such as me want to know what it’s like when that giant is awake. On Opening Day, I may have gotten a glimpse of what that is like.
Simply put, Monday afternoon was the most fun I’ve ever had at Camden Yards. Going to Camden Yards this on Monday just felt different than the years of visiting Camden Yards and watching one of the worst products in the major leagues. I’ve been to an Opening Day before. I’ve been to packed houses at the Yard before. But this just felt a little bit different. Now, are the Orioles still facing a major uphill battle in the AL East? Definitely. And do they still have issues on the farm and internationally that fill their long-term plan with significant holes? Probably. But on Monday, I didn’t care.
It was a perfect day for baseball in Baltimore, as the temperature was just right and sunlight was gleaming off the warehouse. The energy in the ballpark was fantastic – perhaps the best atmosphere I’ve ever been involved in at the Yard. The park geared up for Earl Weaver’s first pitch and was completely invested in the game as starting pitcher Jake Arrieta blew away Miguel Cabrera to end the top of the first inning. The park erupted as Brian Roberts’ long fly ball in the fifth inning kept going and going with the help of a significant wind towards right center. And mostly everyone was still at the park when Koji Uehara closed out the game and the Orioles
I could look around the park at any time and see a packed house, full of orange and black with everyone so happy. And as everyone was streaming out of the ballpark, one could easily think to his or herself, “What if it was like this every game?” And people my age or younger think to ourselves – or at least I do – “I heard that it was always like this. I heard Baltimore was St. Louis East.”
And sure, Orioles fans got a reality check on Wednesday night as a sparse crowd turned out to see most Oriole hitters look silly against Justin Verlander, as well as seeing Brad Bergesen and Josh Rupe get hit around. And a pretty inexcusable botched defensive play mixed in there, too. And maybe this season turns out like the 13 others before it – with more games lost than won.
But that doesn’t dampen how great Opening Day was for me, and probably for every other Orioles fan, as well. That doesn’t keep me from thinking to myself, “Is this really what Camden Yards is like every game when the Orioles are contending?”
Since I wouldn’t know, I have to ask just one question.
Is it really like that?