As I sat in the Club Level at Camden Yards on Thursday night, excited for Game One of the ALDS to begin between the hometown Baltimore Orioles and the visiting Detroit Tigers, I basked in the atmosphere. The ballpark hummed. Why, it was only a few years ago when it was devoid of Orioles fans while intruders, fans of the successful Red Sox and Yankees, took over the seats during non-glorious seasons. Thursday night was a different story; Camden Yards was cradling 48,000+ energetic fans donned in orange and white and black. The ballpark was smiling.
Two gentlemen in their 20s sat down in front of me. They were both wearing Orioles shirts, and each carried his orange and black rally towel replete with the Angry Bird on it. At the first sign that the team was about to take the field, the two young men stood, ready for the first pitch. As the National Anthem played, they respectfully removed their caps as we listed to an operatic tenor sing in splendid fashion. After Manny Machado threw out the first pitch, it was game time, and they were ready.
All throughout the game, I couldn’t help but notice the two gentlemen, mostly because they involved me in their contagious enthusiasm for the night, the team, and what would be the Orioles first win of the series. At each electric moment, whether there was a hit or a solid fielding play or a run scored, the two of them were on their feet. They were jumping up and down like schoolgirls, not caring about what anyone thought of them. They high-fived each other, and then turned and high-fived all of us: my husband, my son, my daughter, and me. We all danced to the music that blared through the O’s PA system; we chanted “Let’s Go O’s” and “Cruuuuuzzzz”; and we sang “O’Day…O’Day…” together. They never stopped smiling.
Those two guys represented all of us who are real fans—Orioles fans—especially those who have waited years for our team to have a shot at the World Series. Their glee was infectious, as was that of the rest of the folks cheering unrelentlessly in the ballpark.
Real Orioles fans were experiencing a real treat.
Many of us have cheered on our team faithfully during the losses, endured the rebuilding of the team, and continued to attend games at the ballpark proudly wearing our Orioles gear despite the years of half-filled seats and mediocrity.
It doesn’t matter when you are a real fan. It is well worth the wait.