The Orioles are fast approaching the quarter-pole of the 2012 season, and I'm sure many fans are asking themselves these questions:
Are the Orioles for real? Can they keep this up? Or are they pulling the wool over our eyes, and will the team that we've seen for the last 14 years make an appearance?
Right now, I'd say they are for real. I am still having a hard time believing it.
The Orioles are winning games that would not have won in the past, plus they are getting excellent starting pitching, timely clutch hitting and the bullpen has been phenomenal.
They sit at 24-14 as of this morning and tied for first place with the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East.
However, it does not seem that fans have turned out Camden Yards in large numbers at all.
I went to the Yankees-Orioles game Tuesday night with a co-worker, a buddy and some of his friends. My co-worker is a Yankees fan and it made for some interesting conversation during the evening. Although the forecast for that day was for rain to appear off and on in the area with thunderstorms, at game time, the weather was nothing short of wonderful. There were blue skies with some clouds in the air, and the temperature was in the high-70s. Alas, it seemed as if only half the ballpark was filled.
It was surprising for my co-worker to see and he was completely dumfounded. Granted, it was only his second game ever at Camden Yards and he is a transplant from northern New Jersey.
He said, "The Orioles are off to a hot start and they are beating up on everyone. Your park is beautiful, you all have great pitching, you're winning. It's a lovely night, but where the hell is everybody?"
I remarked, "Well, I don't know. Yeah, it is a nice night out, but I think fans are still wondering about the team. Honestly, they have sucked for so long that it's a wait-and-see mode for many people. They have given us very little to cheer about. Why should fans put their financial and emotional investment into something, if there's been little reward since Clinton was president. If the Orioles are in it - in the wild card, or divisional hunt - after late June or July, then the fans will start to come back in numbers."
The other day while I was driving to appointment in the late afternoon that same day, I was listening to Sirius/XM Radio's "Inside Pitch" with former baseball executive Jim Bowden and Casey Stern. They were chastising the Orioles' fan base for not supporting their team. I was going to call into their show in my vehicle and explain a few things, but I just didn't have the time to call in and wait on hold.
A caller from the area - a woman - noted that a lot of fans these days do wear their Orioles gear out a lot more often than has been seen in the past. From what I have seen in the area, too, there are indeed a lot more fans showing their pride out in the open. However, as the hosts noted, Camden Yards has not been packed at all - with exception of opening day.
The hardcore fans will come to the games no matter what. I guess I fit into the category, being that I perhaps attend anywhere from 26 to 40 games a year and just love baseball in general.
I know others who attend upwards of 50-60 games a season and quite a few - a small minority - who go to pretty much every contest at the Yard.
However, some fans have still decided to stay away - for now. The issues may range from the economy, to making time in their schedule to head to downtown Baltimore - especially if they are out of state - or ongoing dissatisfaction with ownership.
I have always thought whether you stay at home and watch the games on TV, hear them on radio, or get to see them in person, it should not define your fandom. Some may beg to differ, but it's just my opinion.
As I told my buddy at the game, Orioles fans do still care. They still call the radio shows and either compliment or whine about the team, visit the various message boards, blogs and comment on the topics of the day.
I told him, "You know, the Orioles just have get a winner on the field. It's about sustaining success, much like the Yankees have. If they win, they'll come. The fans are dying for a winner, but the organization has to do its part."
So far, the Orioles are holding up their end of the bargain, though it's an extremely long season. However, I do feel that most fans for now are being cautiously optimistic.
That being said, if you have not attended a game, do you plan on doing so?
Anthony Amobi blogs about the Orioles at Oriole Post. His observations about the O's appear as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.