By Tim Klapac, Sports Editor
photo courtesy of The Baltimore Sun
The spring season has finally arrived! The time has come to shed those unwanted layers, and welcome the overdue warmer weather. With the spring season comes one of the greatest days in sports, Major League Baseball’s Opening Day.
On Thursday, the baseball season will kick off with all 30 teams playing across the country. While many teams will be vying for a shot at the postseason in October, the hometown Baltimore Orioles are heading in a much different direction.
After trading away notable players like third baseman Manny Machado, second baseman Jonathon Schoop, pitchers Zach Britton, Brad Brach and Kevin Gausman and letting fan-favorite outfielder Adam Jones leave via free agency, the 2019 Orioles are a shell of their former selves.
Coming off of a season where they set a franchise record for losses that saw manager Buck Showalter and team president Dan Duquette being shown the door, the Orioles have made it clear that they are rebuilding, which can make for an unappealing situation for fans. However, I’m going to tell you why this is the perfect season to be attending games at Camden Yards.
Because the organization has nearly wiped the slate completely clean, there is an opportunity for fans to build relationships with new players and coaches. Rookie manager Brandon Hyde came over from the Chicago Cubs, where he saw success under the tutelage of manager Joe Maddon. Mike Elias took the reigns as the new general manager of the team and brings with him an insight into baseball’s complex analytics, something the Orioles have embraced, albeit reluctantly.
Young players have taken over the Orioles roster with nine of the 26 players on the active roster being under the age of 26. Outfielder Cedric Mullins has the potential to be the next Adam Jones, infielders Richie Martin and Rio Ruiz are expected to be starting at shortstop and third base, respectively, giving plenty of time to build the necessary chemistry to be a successful infield duo, similar to what we saw from Machado and J.J. Hardy in recent years.
There are some names still remaining from previous years, such as starting pitcher Dylan Bundy, first baseman Chirs Davis and outfielders Mark Trumbo and Trey Mancini. While Davis and Trumbo have become infamous for their poor performance not reflecting the large contracts they received, Bundy and Mancini are the ideal players to aid in the transition from one generation of Orioles to the next.
The 2019 Orioles schedule features numerous opportunities to see some of baseball’s best and brightest players when they visit Camden Yards.
Baltimore’s home opener will be on Thursday, April 4 against the Yankees, who boast powerful sluggers in outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge.
In a six-day period, the two top players in baseball today will visit Oriole Park with outfielder Mookie Betts paying a visit when the reigning champion Boston Red Sox come to town from May 6-8, followed by the Los Angeles Angels, and two-time MVP Mike Trout, playing from May 10-12.
Machado will make his first return to Baltimore when the San Diego Padres play a two-game series on June 25 and 26.
The Battle of the Beltway rivalry will be renewed with the rival Washington Nationals visiting on July 16 and 17.
There are a slew of great promotions this season that can be the sole reason to attend a game.
Star Wars fans can get their hands on a BB-8 beanie if their one of the first 20,000 fans to attend the game against the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday, May 4. The popular Maryland flag replica jersey will make another appearance for the first 30,000 fans at the Saturday, June 29 game against the Cleveland Indians. The Birdland Hawaiian shirt will be given away to the first 30,000 fans on Saturday, July 13 against the Rays.
Don’t forget, every Friday night home game is ‘Student Night,’ where students of any age can purchase upper level tickets for just $10. Towson students can present their One Card at the ticket window to receive discounted tickets.
The commute to Camden Yards isn’t as difficult as you may think. A 10 minute drive from campus to the Falls Road light rail station, a $1.30 one-way pass, and a 30 minute light rail ride drops you off right outside the stadium. Compare that to sitting in traffic on I-83 and paying $10 to park in a lot that’s at least a 15 minute walk from the stadium.
And finally, the atmosphere at Camden Yards is unbeatable. It’s easy to forget just how beautiful Oriole Park is since we have many opportunities to go, but it’s a stadium unlike any other. The food options are varying and unique, from delicious barbecue at Boog’s BBQ, where if you’re lucky, you can meet the former Oriole Boog Powell, to an endless list of crab-themed food.
You can grab a snack and a drink, and relax at the bistro-style tables above the right field scoreboard and hang out with friends and family.
I know the Orioles are not going to be very good this season, but there are so many other reasons to attend a game at Camden Yards other than simply the game.