Stacey Long: A different feel with invested, invigorated O’s fans

The online community for the Baltimore Orioles is a passionate and relatively tight-knit bunch. We comment on each other’s blogs, we follow each other on Twitter and we never stop talking about the O’s. Because of this it can be hard to have the proper perspective on the team’s fan base as a whole.

There are, of course, a lot of things to be excited about as an O’s fan: The offseason acquisitions changed the look of the lineup, the young players are a valid reason for hope and we have our very own folk hero in manager Buck Showalter. But because I am totally immersed in Orioles baseball year-round, it wasn’t until yesterday that I realized just how energized O’s fans are this season.

Yesterday, I sat at Oriole Park and the atmosphere was totally different than in years past. There have been opening days when I’ve had empty seats around me despite a sellout because people didn’t feel like showing or were having too good of a time at Pickles Pub to waste their time at a baseball game. Many years, I get to my seat in time for the opening ceremonies only to find that the seating bowl is well over half empty because the fans didn’t really care about the product on the field. I often fume at some of the people sitting around me because they insist on running their mouths about work or other non-baseball topics for three straight hours. But none of that was the case yesterday.

Jim Hunter introduces the 2011 Orioles in their opening day ceremonies

When MASN’s Jim Hunter began the introduction of the Detroit Tigers at 2:30 p.m., Camden Yards was packed. I turned to my friend and asked, “Have you ever seen the stadium so full for the pregame ceremonies?” When Hunter began introducing the Orioles and they made their way down the orange carpet, the crowd roared appreciatively. Zach Britton got a huge ovation, seemingly bigger than the ones for Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis. The new Orioles were greeted warmly, and unlikely bullpen member Josh Rupe even got to hear the crowd yell “Ruuuupe!” when it was his turn to take the field.

It didn’t stop there. The fans were wholly invested in every pitch of the game, and when those around me weren’t talking about the action on the field, they were talking about the team overall. The gentlemen behind me had a spirited discussion of Felix Pie versus Luke Scott in the lineup. A woman in front of me told us that she had season tickets in that section all through the 1990s before moving up to club level, but she knew this year was special so she made the trek back down to her old stomping grounds. Everywhere I looked, fans were thrilled to be watching their Baltimore Orioles.

It didn’t hurt that the Orioles were riding a three-game winning streak to start the season or that the weather was absolutely perfect, but those things happened so suddenly that they couldn’t have been the major factors for the buzz at the ballpark. More likely, the fantastic run the Orioles went on to end last season, combined with the bevy of moves made by the front office this winter, have invigorated the fans in a way I didn’t fully anticipate. Hopefully, the Orioles can continue their winning ways and keep Camden Yards rocking all summer long.

Stacey Long blogs about the Orioles at Camden Chat. Read Long’s Orioles observations this week, as begins a season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site.

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