Come Saturday April 16, Oriole Park at Camden Yards will play host to an intense, pressure-packed game with plenty on the line.
Nope, the Yankees aren’t in town to face the O’s that weekend, and the Red Sox won’t be setting up shop in the visitor’s clubhouse, either.
The players taking the field at Camden Yards that day will be members of two Baltimore city high schools, and they’ll be duking it out for the championship of the inaugural President’s Cup.
This morning, flanked by Orioles’ Director of Communications Greg Bader, Baltimore City Schools CEO Andres Alonso, Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association Vice President Tim Holley and members of the competing high school baseball teams, Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young announced that in April, eight teams from the city’s public and private schools will compete in a new citywide tournament.
The event aims to bring together groups of high school students from different backgrounds that normally would not compete against one another. The teams will play on some of Baltimore city’s best baseball fields, and will vie for the President’s Cup trophy, which will be handed out at the end of the championship game at Camden Yards.
“I’m so excited to announce the event which brings together two of my absolute favorite things - baseball and Baltimore,” Young said at a City Hall press conference. “The point of the President’s Cup is to strengthen the relationship between our city’s youth, and show them that through sports, their differences are not enough to keep them from learning from one another.
“I’m also excited to have the Orioles as a partner in the President’s Cup. Playing at Camden Yards will be a well-earned privilege for the two teams that qualify for the championship.”
Five private schools (Boys’ Latin, Friends, Gilman, Mount Saint Joseph and St. Frances Academy) are already on board for the tournament, and in early April, the Baltimore City Public Schools’ Office of Interscholastic Athletics will choose the top three public schools to round out the eight competing teams.
The first round of the President’s Cup will take place on April 9, with both the semifinals and championship game scheduled for April 16. The semifinals will take place at Swann Park and Mount St. Joseph, and the winning teams will then head to Camden Yards for the title game, scheduled for 1 p.m.
“There was a time when, in Baltimore, at the high school level of baseball, great rivalries included Poly versus Mount St. Joe, Gilman versus Patterson, Boys’ Latin versus Forest Park and so forth,” Holley said. “Because our leagues don’t align with schedules, those games don’t happen very often anymore, but we do think it’s a great opportunity to bring kids from diverse backgrounds together.
“Sports are a great equalizer; wherever you go to school and wherever it is that you come from, playing on that field is an opportunity to level the playing field and to excel, and to join together in the cooperative spirit.”
An added benefit, according to Dr. Alonzo, is keeping kids from an urban environment interested in baseball.
“The city boasts an amazing legacy in terms of the game, and hopefully we keep that legacy going,” Alonzo said. “It is true that we don’t see kids playing (baseball) as we used to in the past. We see soccer, we see basketball and the question is why - and what can we do to maintain what I think remains America’s game? ... I love the game, and I want to make sure that it is very successful in Baltimore.”
The Orioles will provide staff to work the scoreboards and PA systems for the championship game, in an effort to provide what Bader called “a major league environment”.
From the Orioles’ perspective, Bader said that getting involved in the President’s Cup was a no-brainer - as soon as a minor scheduling conflict was averted.
“We loved the idea (of the tournament) and hoped to play a role, but obviously, since it’s taking place during baseball season, if it was to involve Camden Yards in any way, it needed to be scheduled in such a way that (the Orioles) would be out of town,” he said. “It just came about that April 16 was a Saturday where we’re on the road, and we are able to provide Oriole Park at Camden Yards as the championship field. We’re certainly excited that we’ll be able to play a role in helping to create some memories for these kids.”