John Angelos: "I think we're headed in the right direction"

The importance of the Orioles to the city of Baltimore, how tightly the orange and black threads are woven into its fabric, shouldn’t need to be proven or reiterated. It’s as plain as the brick building behind the right field flag court at Camden Yards.

Still, it’s nice to hear.

It’s also vital for the folks who carry deep scars from the Colts burning them with the move to Indianapolis 39 years ago.

Mayor Brandon Scott didn’t mention the Colts by name at yesterday’s press conference to announce the Orioles’ $5 million donation to the non-profit CollegeBound Foundation, but the baseball team’s commitment to the city stood as a stark contrast to Robert Irsay’s slurred promises to stay that were built on lies.

Scott called chairman and CEO John Angelos and the Orioles “a true partner to the city of Baltimore.”

“It’s really not just an investment into the organization, it's an investment into the future of Baltimore,” said Scott, who's a CollegeBound board member and alumnus. “Because when you see what CollegeBound alums do, they come back home. They’re teachers, they’re lawyers. They are mayors, they are doctors, they are nurses, they are police officers. They are the folks who work in our city and our community every day.

“I always say that there are sports teams that are in cities and sports teams that are of cities, and the Orioles are in the latter.”

“Of cities” really struck a chord.

“I think that’s the way I looked at it when I was a fan of the Orioles in the ‘70s and ‘80s and ‘90s before I became involved,” Angelos said later.

“If it weren’t for my family or my parents, my father getting involved, I wouldn’t probably be here. If it weren’t for this program, Mayor Scott was very humble to say he probably wouldn’t be here. So, we all get our breaks in different ways, we all need a helping hand, and for the Mayor of Baltimore to say that the Orioles are of Baltimore means everything. It means everything.”

Yesterday’s donation and promises of the long-term investment in Baltimore igniting its next renaissance should further mute any concerns about the team leaving. Of course, it should have been silenced a long time ago, but wringing hands remain a symbol of the franchise, perhaps second only to The Bird, until a new stadium lease is signed.

“I think that’s really never in doubt unless you’re trying to make a headline or tweet something out,” Angelos said.

“When you sit back and reflect and really think about what a pillar like the Orioles mean and what it ought to mean and what it will mean in the future, that’s really not in doubt. I don’t think anybody should think of that. I think we should think of the Orioles being of Baltimore, and what I said in the past about Fort McHenry and all those things. Those things are deeply felt, and the city means everything to us.

“It’s the only hometown we’ll ever have, and the only hometown the Orioles will ever have.”

The presser veered so far off course, with Angelos scolding a reporter for his line of questioning on Martin Luther King Day, that a GPS couldn't have rerouted it. Uncomfortable all around. But the latest assurances that the team isn't moving, later lost in the scuffle, were noteworthy.

Angelos concluded a lengthy search for a new executive vice president and general manager by hiring Mike Elias in November 2018. Elias would “oversee all baseball operations for the club and have full autonomy to build his staff and make decisions on all baseball matters,” the Orioles said in a statement.

No timetable for a turnaround. Just a clear plan of attack, including an emphasis on international scouting and the building of a real analytics department.

Nothing that suggested a quick fix. Beauty in the process wasn’t hinted at, let alone promised.

The Orioles fell on extremely hard times but experienced a bounce back in 2022 with the first winning record in six years and contender status until the final week. They intend to make another run at the postseason, armed with the top farm system in baseball that already transported catcher Adley Rutschman, pitcher DL Hall, infielder Gunnar Henderson and outfielder Kyle Stowers to the majors last summer.

Angelos said yesterday that going from rebuild to respectable in this amount of time, with sites set much higher, leaves the team better than he imagined in at least one sense.

“If you really think about this, the management team that the Orioles have today was really announced in the fall of 2019," he said. "Mike Elias had been on board for some months, but as you know, that first six months or whatever it is for a GM, especially when you’re hired in that sort of speed dating time between the end of the season and the holidays, it’s a four-alarm fire. So, I really date this management team that include Mike Elias and his team within it as having started in the fall of 2019. Which means we’ve had the success we’ve had in 36 months with essentially an 18-month global pandemic overlaid, which cut out an entire season of minor league baseball, the majority of an entire season of major league baseball. So yes, that’s way ahead of schedule.

“And then of course, the other milestone is going from in the mid-20s or wherever we were to No. 1 in (minor league) baseball, graduating multiple No. 1 prospects in all of minor league baseball. A 31-game turnaround. Now, you and I both know injuries happen and sophomore jinxes and all those things, but I think we’re headed in the right direction, and we’re still adding to our management team.”

The most recent hire is Cal Perry as senior vice president and chief content officer.

“That’s huge to me,” Angelos said. “Somebody from a totally different industry, really from the industry of journalism who’s been an international person and wanted to be a part of this. And we’ve had others who have come on board, either from other organizations, from other sports entirely, or from other industries entirely, and that’s going to happen more and more because this city is too important of a place not to get the best and the brightest.

“What really my litmus test is, are the people good people, do they have perspective, are they reliable, are they trustworthy, are they competent and capable in what they do? It just so happened that I had the good fortune to run into Mike Elias in 2018 and he checked all those boxes. The fact that he’s also been particularly good over the last couple years at his job … and he’s going to be here a long time, and so is Sig (Mejdal) and all the folks. I just couldn’t be more optimistic.

“I mentioned in the press conference, this is a great time for the state and the city. There is great leadership, great unity and anything’s possible. We just have to get after it, and I think the Oriole are all in on that.”

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