Camden Yards opened its doors Saturday to let the fans get a taste of spring and baseball. In spite of the nip in the air and below average temps., Maryland bird lovers flocked anyway, having to wear an extra layer. They came to check out the new faces on the diamond, to sample the stadium fare, to check out the new scoreboard and let their children play. The resounding question is – of course – will this year’s Baltimore Orioles come to play?
Debbie Borgerding of Perry Hall was struggling with her goodie bags when I met up with her in Pastimes Café on Eutaw Street. Not only was she indoors trying to keep warm but she was also in charge of carrying all of the family’s loot. You see her 10-year old son Zachary, (accompanied by his Dad) was out testing his arm with a pitching machine while Mom took refuge. And she was glad to do it once she wrestled down those bags. It was everything the Orioles were giving out. The Borgerding family made out, as many fans did!
Zach has been playing baseball since he was 4. He was totally into all the action on Eutaw Street and was particularly stoked with his new Brian Roberts bobble-head doll. He’s got a rocket of an arm; I can see it in his eyes.
Debbie says the key for a good FanFest for her family was avoiding the rush by arriving just before 9 a.m. The early O’s get the worm!
The Borgerding’s “come to a couple [of games] a year, but the Orioles are losing a lot and it’s just not as much fun.”
Is Debbie hopeful now with Andy MacPhail leading the charge?
“They’re talking a lot of old school ball now, the farm system- times have changed, I don’t know if that works…I have my doubts.”
Debbie said for her, going to an O’s game isn’t about baseball as much anymore as it is about socializing.
“We can’t make them win, we can just go to a game and drink a beer,” she said laughing.
That’s what 10-straight losing seasons will do to even the most earnest of fans.
Still, we go to dust off our wintered legs and assault our senses…the smell of Boog’s pit percolating, the aroma of fresh cut boardwalk fries, the scent of ball-park dogs on the grill…the sight of wide-eyed children slurping up the cotton candy with their big blue smiles, dad giving a big fat thumbs-up to his daughter who just got Rick Dempsey’s signature on her baseball…the sound of ball meeting glove off a bat from someone in the bigs, the voice of a child cackling “look what I got” because a major leaguer just lobbed him the ball…
That’s why we go. Some fans are filled with hope and others with caution. But no matter, they all wore smiles. It was their day. They earned it.
Even as I sat with the Nettler family from Baltimore before Andy MacPhail came in to do his fan forum, they wore smiles. They are die-hard fans, season-ticket holders since 1992. For them, their seats aren’t giving them a lot to smile about these days. Why? The new hotel being built which will connect to the Convention Center has obstructed their view of the city.
Jonathan Nettler, who now lives in New York (and doesn’t like the Yankees-I made sure) is an urban planner and in the architectural business. He wanted to question MacPhail about the hotel, but then realized that MacPhail probably had nothing to do with it. Jonathan comes home to Baltimore and takes advantage of those season tickets often.
“It’s blocked off- it’s like a wall. We used to have beautiful views of the city,” he said, adding “it’s a shame. It’s at the expense of Baltimoreans who pay their hard-earned money, spend that money supporting a team who frankly hasn’t given them a lot back in the last couple of decades.” And for what, he explained, so someone who comes here once or twice a year? Aren’t there enough hotels around here?
His mom, Kathy, supplies the Orioles tickets and is on the scene more than Jonathan. She’s not happy either. Still, it’s just something they’ll have to get used to. What can they do?
Best part of FanFest…everybody CAN BE a seat-hopper jumping from one to the next. Don’t like this view? Let’s go over there. Want to watch B-Roberts bat up close? I’m on it. Is that Nick Markakis on the third base side? I am so there.
Fans had access, something they aren’t really used to. They could even take a picture with the 1983 World Series Trophy. Excellent. They have hope that some of these boys will help bring in one more trophy sometime in the near future. They have caution because the sins of the past don’t go away with one big name and two big trades.
We start anew Monday and only time will tell who is right and who is wrong.