The long-term commitment to the city of Baltimore that Orioles ownership has preached and promised throughout rumors of a potential sale or relocation was reiterated this morning via a sizeable financial donation to a local nonprofit organization.
The point was driven home in tones ranging from mostly celebratory to somewhat heated during a 25-minute news conference.
Orioles chairman and CEO John Angelos, in a rare public appearance, and Mayor Brandon Scott gathered on the sixth floor of the B&O warehouse to announce a $5 million commitment to CollegeBound Foundation in support of “the next Baltimore renaissance.”
The CollegeBound Foundation, in existence for 35 years, is a multi-year support network dedicated to leading Baltimore City public school graduates through college by offering academic and personal guidance, empowering these students to successfully pursue and complete a college degree or other post-secondary options.
The Orioles also are providing paid internships to former city students and current College Completion Program scholars.
Scott thanked Angelos and the Orioles for being “a true partner to the city of Baltimore.”
“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,” Scott said. “They are a part of Baltimore, a deep part, especially for me. I want a World Series championship more than anything.”
Angelos said he couldn’t think of a more appropriate time to share the information than Martin Luther King Day. A day of service and reinvestment in the community.
The sum of the donation clearly caught representatives of CollegeBound by surprise. Scott joked that executive director Cassie Motz “almost fell out of her chair” when she heard it.
“A $5 million gift is transformative,” Motz said, wearing an orange blazer over her black dress as a self-described, life-long Orioles fan.
“We work with students during high school to guide them to college and then we give out $4 million of scholarships every year to Baltimore City graduates, and we stay with our students during college. Seventy-five percent of the students in our program are graduating from four-year college, which is an incredibly impressive number compared to the rest of the state, the rest of the city.
“I’m confident that this will be a wonderful partnership lasting for many years.”
“I really honestly didn’t know what would make a difference,” Angelos said, “and I think what would mostly make a difference is if we are collaborative with the Mayor’s office and CollegeBound and work with the state and try to get as much support as we can. And so, I picked a number because I think about the work my dad did, the work Mayor (Kurt) Schmoke did, the work that Mayor Scott’s doing, and others.”
Angelos said the money would be infused over however many years that make sense to the effort.
“Whatever you want to do,” he said, “we want to do.”
Angelos has long insisted that the Orioles won’t move to another city, famously saying in 2019 and repeating later that they’ll remain in Baltimore “as long as Fort McHenry is standing watch over the Inner Harbor.” The club and Maryland Stadium Authority haven’t reached agreement on a new lease at Camden Yards, which expires in December, but the Orioles can exercise a one-time, five-year extension by February.
Commissioner Rob Manfred also tried to defuse rumors of a relocation during last month’s Winter Meetings in San Diego, telling the media that “as long as I have this job, I think you can count on the fact that the Orioles are going to be in Baltimore.”
“With all due respect, I’m going to try not to talk too much about between the lines today,” Angelos said this morning when asked for an update on the lease. “I think Dr. King would appreciate that if we talked about what’s going on in the community a little bit more.
“The Orioles are going to be here for the long term. We have been here and I’ve said many times publicly, unsolicited, unprompted, we’re never going anywhere. I grew up here, I spent every day of my life living, not only in Maryland, not only in Baltimore, but in Baltimore City. I never lived in any other jurisdiction in this state other than Baltimore City and I’m proud of that.
“The Orioles will continue to work with the Stadium Authority and (chairman) Tom Kelso and the next administration. … Fear not, the Orioles will be here.”
Scott noted how the Orioles keep making deep investments in the community, which didn’t happen with the NFL’s Colts before owner Robert Irsay moved the team to Indianapolis in March 1984.
“There are many worries that I have," Scott said. “The Orioles are not one.”
Angelos strongly objected to a follow-up question, particularly the timing of it, from a reporter with The Athletic about his future relationship with the team and the family’s “situation,” a reference to its ongoing litigation, and how it might impact the donation.
In response, Angelos referred to it as “highly inappropriate” and said he was going to take the reporter “a little bit to task on it.” The exchange lasted almost five minutes.
“A very esteemed professor once presented to a group in Baltimore City that I was a part of, she said that only next to the state of Mississippi had there been more red-lining than there had been in Baltimore City,” Angelos said. “There’s a vicious, virulent amount of racism historically through this country, and part of what we’re trying to do here is change that. So, it’s really not important at all in the grand scheme of things to people that are clear-thinking and who mean well and have a perspective to, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, while we’re talking about putting kids that don’t have a shot in hell of anything because of where they were born through college, to be talking about those kinds of things.”
Angelos continued by pointing out that his family owns more than 70 percent of the team and reminding the room that his parents, Peter and Georgia Angelos, are the principal owners. Peter Angelos has been in poor health for many years and relinquished control of the team and his law firm.
“You see what we’re doing here in the community,” John Angelos said. “You also know that in 36 months with an 18-month overlay of COVID, we were able to turn the entire team around, one of the top five or seven or eight or 10 – I don’t know, you probably do know that – reversals in the history of Major League Baseball, while also taking the minor league system from 25th to first. I don’t know of any team … I did ask our folks to look at it, that have ever had two No. 1 prospects in baseball back to back, but there may have been others.
“I just think that that we all ought to have a little perspective on what’s important in the world, and what’s important in the world is what we’re talking about. What you’re talking about, you can find any garden-variety, high-value sports team or involvement, you’re always going to have some controversy, but I’ve been very outspoken. I’m very transparent. In fact, I would invite you and all your colleagues next, not on Martin Luther King Day. You can come back in this building, you can meet me in this office. I’ll take you down on the third floor and I’ll show you the financials of the Orioles. I’ll show you the governance of the Orioles. I’ll show you everything you want to know and I’ll (take) all your questions. But today, on MLK Day, I’m not answering any of those questions.”
Delegate Stephanie Smith also attended the news conference and expressed her appreciation of the Orioles’ gesture toward CollegeBound Foundation.
“I think it speaks earlier to what the Mayor said earlier. They’re not just here to be a team that’s in the city, they’re a team of the city,” she said.
“They care about the future because they’re linked.”
You can learn more about CollegeBound Foundation here.