On April 29, amid civil unrest in the city of Baltimore, the Orioles defeated the White Sox 8-2 in front of an announced attendance of zero. While the game was closed to the public and the stadium was empty, it seemed as if the whole world was watching.
For many baseball fans outside of the city, it was nothing more than a topic of discussion. For Baltimore fans, it was much more personal, and while most understood the decision, they were still sad they were unable to cheer on their team in person.
Not only did the Orioles play a game in an empty stadium, they then headed to St. Petersburg, Fla., to serve as the home team at The Trop. All in all, the Orioles lost three home games on the season, played an empty stadium game and added a doubleheader versus the White Sox to the schedule to make up for the first two games missed.
“Well, now what?” many Orioles fans asked after they couldn’t be there physically to support their team at the Yard last week.
And that’s where an idea was born.
Enter Sam Angell, 30, a native Baltimorean currently living and working in Philadelphia. A quick glance at the Orioles’ schedule showed him that the next homestand would kick off Monday, May 11. After seeing the excitement surrounding opening day each year, in which fans are chomping at the bit to get out to restaurants or bars and then the game for the first time of the season, Angell came up with the idea for “ReOpening Day”.
In creating ReOpening Day, Angell was hoping to rally the city of Baltimore and encourage fans to head to Camden Yards on Monday for the Orioles’ first game back. He also wanted to see those attending the game support local businesses affected by the curfew and protesting before heading to cheer on the O’s.
“I came up with the idea after seeing the schedule changes made last week and seeing Baltimore lose out on so many home games,” Angell said. “I was annoyed at first, and quickly decided to turn my attentions forward. ... So the basic idea in the first place was to get people to get down to the ballpark early, support the local businesses around that had been impacted by the schedule changes, the protests themselves and the curfew, and then be in the ballpark for first pitch to show the team and the world that Baltimoreans are still proud of their city and ready to tackle the next challenge.”
One business that has helped Angell in his efforts is Frank & Nic’s West End Grille, which experienced damage during the protests. Located just a short walk from Camden Yards, Frank & Nic’s will serve as a collection site for the Maryland Food Bank on Monday, another aspect of ReOpening Day organized by Angell and his friends, including Andrew Ellington, an attorney and lifelong Orioles fan.
“We have partnered with the Maryland Food Bank and are suggesting people to stop by Frank & Nic’s to drop off their donations,” Ellington said.” Or they can just go out to a local bar or restaurant on May 11 if they can’t make it to the game.Go to your favorite local spot and give them a little extra business that night. This is about all of us doing what we can to help Baltimore.”
So far, the response to the creation of ReOpening Day has been “overwhelmingly positive,” according to Angell. He is encouraging fans to RSVP to ReOpening Day on Facebook and to follow @ReOpeningDay on Twitter.
At the publication of this blog entry, more than 2,400 had already stated that they’re going to the game Monday on Facebook.
“We have been very fortunate that the local media has really embraced this idea and helped us spread the word,” Ellington said. “Jim Palmer has tweeted about us, Jim Hunter and Gary Thorne have mentioned us on air. ...
“My expectation is that it will be a great day of people getting together to celebrate and support Baltimore. I am really hoping for a fantastic turnout. Not only at the stadium, but other neighborhoods coming together that night to cheer on the Orioles. And if Adam Jones hits a dramatic walk-off home run, that would be pretty great, too.”
In addition to an Orioles win, both Angell and Ellington are hoping to see an increase in turnout for Monday’s game, a home opener rematch between the Blue Jays and Orioles.
“I think fans should participate for a number of reasons,” Angell said. “Primarily, though, to just show their pride in their city. The Orioles have been such a part of this community for over 60 years, and the local businesses both in the Camden Yards are and throughout the city are what gives Baltimore such a welcoming, unique flavor. I love Baltimore more than anything because of its uniqueness and because of the Orioles and Ravens. I just hope that other Baltimoreans feel the same way and want to support the team and the community. They can get involved in any number of ways.
“Of course we want to fill up the ballpark. That’s our primary goal, and we hope the people who come to the game also go to the bars and restaurants and stores around the area before they head in the gates.”
For those unable to attend ReOpening Day, Monday’s home game will be broadcast on MASN, beginning at 6:30 p.m. If you’re looking for more information on the grassroots campaign, check out ReOpeningDay.com.