Three hours before the first pitch, Kristen Swader, her husband, Mike, and their 4-year-old son, Michael III, queued to enter Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Mike, 28, has been to every Orioles Opening Day since he was a newborn, Michael III hasn’t missed one yet, and Kristen’s obsession is so enduring that she has a classic Orioles logo tattooed on her side. .
“It’s a holiday,” she said of Inauguration Day, holding Michael III in her arms.
Orioles have always been valued for the Sweders. Mike remembers skipping class in high school to get into sports, and Kristen worked as an usher.
“There’s something about it,” said Mike. “It’s an escape.”
Despite the best of hopes for the Orioles in 2022 and a season-opening sweep at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays to start the season, fans remained elated for Opening Day – the first time untethered by attendance limits since 2019.
There were some open seats in the upper deck for the first pitch at 3:05 p.m. of the game, but it was officially announced to be sold out with a declared crowd of 44,461 to see the Orioles win their first win of the season. achieved, 2-0 over the Milwaukee Brewers.
As the Sweders and hundreds of other hopeful fans waited for the gates to open on Monday afternoon, Clarence “Fancy Clancy” Haskett was inside the stadium with hundreds of beers. Haskett has been a beer salesman at Orioles games for 48 years, and animated salesmen greeted everyone — people in the stadium, people on the phone — with a single exclamation: “Happy New Year!”
He started Monday the same way he often does, with 50 push-ups in the vendors’ room, partly for exercise and partly for sports to energize himself. Haskett is known for his enthusiasm and his sales pitches, which include comments such as: “Hey guys, did you know it’s okay to drink a cold beer at a baseball game?”
The Orioles have seen attendance drop every year since 2014, with just over 10,000 fans last year during a season affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Attendance this season could be hurt by the ongoing pandemic, as well as by the bitter 99-day lockout of players in the office by team owners, which potentially eroded baseball’s general popularity.
The last time an extended MLB assignment was halted from 1994 to 1995, attendance was reduced by around 20% for the majors the following season. This time there is less animosity from fans, but still, a recent AP-NORC survey found that 47% Baseball fans said lockdown It had at least some influence on his view of MLB.
Lack of recent success – Baltimore has lost 108 or more games in three of the past four seasons and has One of the lowest payrolls among majors this year – There has also been nostalgia for some fans.
“If they want me to spend my money, they have to spend some of my money,” Daniel Contesti, who used to participate in Orioles games but hasn’t been there for many years, wrote in an email.
Of course, that sentiment was not felt on Monday, as fans eagerly waved and cheered for the fifth inning Bruce Zimmerman, Orioles starting pitcher and a Maryland native who attended nearby Loyola Blackfield. Zimmermann played four unscored innings, allowing three hits and four striking.
Childhood friends and Baltimore fans Eric Stout and Noah Keynes also attended Loyola, and before the game, the pair wore Jim Palmer and John Means jerseys, respectively, to note their enthusiasm for the fellow alum and their hopes for the season. Did.
“More wins than last year,” said Stout. “I just want to see some improvement. I am not looking forward to the World Series, but I am hoping for improvement.”
In 2008, a law student named Kevin Gracie came to Oriole Park at just the right time. He became the 50 millionth fan to attend a game at Camden Yards, winning $50,000 and five-year season tickets for being the lucky attendee.
Now a lawyer, Gracie hasn’t missed an inaugural day since 2005, and he was wearing Luis Montanez’s jersey on Monday—a rarely-remembered Oriole who scored 68 career hits in the major leagues.
Gracie called the opening day “the best day of the year” and said she was optimistic about the future of the Orioles.
He’s also a fan of the Ravens, but he doesn’t like that football teams play just once a week – this gives fans too much time at a loss. In baseball, yesterday’s woes can be made up for the next day; That’s why the sweep against the rays of the Orioles didn’t bother Gracie.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said before the opening day’s first pitch, “we’re going to win today.”