The past week has probably been the strangest in the history of the Orioles franchise. In a span of six days, the O's have played a game where fans weren't allowed to leave for an inning due to violence outside the stadium, had two games cancelled, and played a game with a paid attendance of zero. Baltimore is hurting right now, and while sports are certainly not important compared to the city's other issues, baseball is still being played, and we still love it.
This weekend, the O's are playing a "home" series in St. Petersburg against the Rays. The games have been moved due to the situation in the city, and personally, I think it's the right call, just as I agreed with the decision to close the gates on Wednesday. We can certainly debate whether Camden Yards would be a safe place to be this weekend, but even if it is, how many police officers are staffing a typical O's game? Between directing traffic, closing streets, patrolling near the bars, standing at the gates, securing the field, and patrolling the concourse - is it fifty? One hundred? More? I honestly have no idea, but the Orioles shouldn't be pulling a single police officer from a post that really matters, much less the amount of officers that are needed to host an MLB game safely.
After Tampa, the Birds will be in New York for six games against the Mets and Yankees. They'll finally return to Baltimore on May 11th against Toronto. This is where we come in. There's been a movement on social media recently to make that game "Re-Opening Day" - to pack the stadium, get there early, patronize local businesses, and cheer loudly. Jim Palmer has already given his support to the idea on Twitter, and I'm asking everyone in the Baltimore area to support it too.
Regardless of how little sports matter in the grand scheme of things, they can be a huge component in outsiders' perception of a city. For a lot of folks across the country, their entire perception of Baltimore has been formed by The Wire, the Orioles and Ravens, and now, sadly, the violence and unrest they've seen and heard about this week. That's why I was so happy to see a group of vocal fans outside the centerfield gate on Wednesday. If anyone tuning in from out of town was thinking about making a trip to see OPACY this summer, they would've seen those fans and thought that maybe Baltimore isn't the complete warzone it appears to be at times on the news. If this group of people can stand out there in the open without worrying about their safety, then maybe the Braves fan thinking about flying up in July won't cancel their plane ticket to Baltimore just yet either.
We can keep that going. Despite how trivial sports really are, we can make a difference about how our city is viewed by fans of other teams across the country. Let's start on the 11th, if you can make it. If not, start on the 12th. Hop over to MLB.com and buy some tickets. If you can, buy a couple extra and donate them to a local charity. On game day, get downtown at 4:00. Hell, if you're able to, get there at noon.
And while you're there, check out the Sports Legends Museum, the building that could be seen on every news channel during the violence on Saturday night. Go to Frank and Nic's, whose windows were shattered by flying objects. Go to Sliders, where tables were thrown and violent clashes went down before the game. Go to Camden Pub, the locally owned sports bar a block away that's been there since the stadium was built, and has lost a ton of business this week. Go to as many local businesses as you can. Buy a hot dog from one of the vendors outside the stadium. Buy another one for a homeless person.
Getting a big crowd for an Orioles game isn't going to make the city's problems go away. But it's a chance to show the rest of the baseball world that we still love the O's and they can still come see our stadium, arguably the best in baseball. Another thing looking like the best in baseball this week? The Orioles! With all this going on around them, they've turned it around and won three in a row, outscoring their opponents 31-13 in dominating fashion. If you need another reason to come downtown on the 11th, there you have it. Remember, this is still Birdland.