A look at Orioles off the field during shutdown

The Orioles held a conference call today with both executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias and senior vice president of community development and communications Jennifer Grondahl to discuss the current shutdown of baseball.

Check Roch Kubatko’s blog for Elias’ updates on baseball operations and I will post Grondahl’s comments on the business side for the club here.

Grondahl’s opening comments to reporters: “We’re taking this situation one day at a time. As Mike (Elias) said, we’ve been working very closely together as a team. Our employees have been fantastic, stepped up to the plate and working very hard, most of them from home at this time.

“And what we know is we have to be really thoughtful to get everything right with all the questions we are faced with. But as an organization, every decision we are making, every decision we’ve made thus far, is with the health and safety of our employees, players and fans in mind.

“So we’re encouraging our players and employees to follow the guidelines to lead by example, so we can be part of the solution and that is our priority. We do see our role in the community during baseball season as being leaders in the community. And certainly during this situation.”

How confident are you the Orioles can reopen their offices after March 29?: “I wish I knew the answer to that question. I would like it to happen because I would like to think we are on the other side of this. But we’re taking it day by day and are going to make the decision that we think is right and safe for the employees. As soon as we feel we can open the doors, we will. But not a moment sooner.”

Camden Yards daytime.jpgWhat sense is there in the organization about the financial impact of a long delay?: “Well, certainly it would be naïve of any of us to think they’re not going to be pretty substantial. But I feel that our organization is doing a lot of analysis. T.J. Brightman (senior vice president and chief revenue officer), Greg Bader (senior vice president of administration and experience), myself, Mike, Lisa Tolson (senior vice president of human resources), working together with the partnership group to look at, obviously, the questions of when will we start playing baseball.

“We preparing to play baseball. And as Mike said, we want to play as many games as possible and certainly that would address part of that question. But ultimately we’re going to do the best we can. And we’re going to be here for our employees and we’ve committed to that. You’ve seen how all 30 major league teams have committed to compensation for our seasonal ballpark employees. And that is really where our focus is right now - how do we take care of our people.”

Is there a sense of how much the $1 million from the Orioles to ballpark employees would cover? How much of the season would that cover and how big of a help that is?: “Right now, we are analyzing a number of different options to determine how we are going to administer that money. A lot of teams, all of the teams are coming up with their own plans. Some will look very similar to others. We’re talking to other teams. The answer is it really depends on the decision that we make as an organization. I expect to have more on that soon and I promise to share that as soon as we make that decision.”

The team was excited about non-baseball events not yet announced that you would be having at Camden Yards. Will they be affected?: “So we are planning on moving forward with as much as we can. We might have to make some date adjustments on some of the plans. Like the entertainment we have talked about - concerts and other events we wanted to do similar to the caravan concept, but really focused on community development in our Birdland market. Right now, we just can’t say. But our goal is to do as much as we can in the season that we have to do it in. And out of season as well. Depending on how long the season goes, we will continue with plans at Oriole Park.”

Would you favor playing games without fans to start if that is recommended?: “I’m in favor of whatever we have to do to keep in line with the CDC recommendations. If we are able to put baseball players on a field and we feel we can safely do that for their protection, I’m in favor of that. ... Of course, we would prefer to have fans at Oriole Park, just as the fans would prefer to be there. I’m in favor of whatever we have to do that is a wise decision. It’s bigger than baseball for us. We want to do what is right for the community and we’ll follow the guidelines set for that.”

Do fans need to know anything about tickets they hold for early season games? Is there anything they should do right now?: “We have been very diligent about updating Orioles.com with all those questions that we are getting from fans. We are waiting for some additional guidance from Major League Baseball. But with the plan currently to play this season, depending on the start and end date, a lot of that will affect fans with tickets. But right now, we’ve been communicating with fans. We sent out another communication this morning to our ticket holders. And again, Orioles.com has everything that we know at this moment in real time.”

The Birdland Caravan was a big boost heading into the season. Is it a letdown that momentum gets slowed down now?: “You know, I tend to be an optimist by nature, but also a realist, and I do think that what we experienced with caravan was very telling about fans and how loyal they are to our organization as we’re in this rebuild. I think that the bright spot in this sort of cloudy day is that our fans will be really craving baseball and if we can put together a baseball season and the entertainment we have planned and add to that some of the other outreach that we are planning on doing, I feel like we’ll be able to continue that momentum.”

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