“But she’s won lots of awards,” Aaron chimed in. “Before she came here, she was at Fenway.”
Times have been tough for Orioles fans lately, leading some to try to find something — anything — away from the game to make the ballpark experience enjoyable. This is especially true as the O’s are now 39-85, easily last in the American League East and better than only the Detroit Tigers (37-84) in the majors. Baltimore’s home attendance is projected to drop this season from last year’s average of 19,311, which ranked 14th among 15 AL teams.
Yet some Baltimore fans keep coming back. The Mayers call themselves “Baltimorons,” part of a rare breed of fans who opt to spend their nights watching misery. These fans show up for myriad reasons: to carry on a family tradition, to get outside on a nice night after work, to meet friends or family members for a drink in the bleachers or just to be loyal to their team.
“I don’t even know who’s pitching tonight. I don’t think anybody knows who’s pitching tonight,” said Pat Schroeder, a Baltimore local who was attending his fourth game of the season June 25.
Schroeder said he used to make it to eight to 10 games per season. His attendance has tapered in recent years to around five games, but a promotional event brought Schroeder, accompanied by his grandson, out for a game against the San Diego Padres. Although Schroeder said he expected a losing season, he said he “still supports the team.”
“You just have to hang in there,” Schroeder said.
As the dog days of the season arrive, a handful of teams are playing for little of consequence. For the Orioles, this is routine: In the past 31 seasons, they have won 90 games just three times. Last year the O’s lost 115 games, and this year they’re on pace to lose well over 100 again.
It’s frustrating to see a team perpetually slide, said Allan Dresser, an Orioles fan since they moved to his hometown in 1954. Now he arrives at Camden Yards with a singular mind-set: The Orioles almost surely won’t win, but winning isn’t the important part. He’s there because he wouldn’t dare disavow the hometown squad.
“Winning doesn’t matter,” Dresser said. “I stick with them through the good and bad. … I want to see the hustle, run to first base, back up players, play fundamental baseball, knowing that they have [Class] AAA talent right now.”
Other fans said they wouldn’t pass up a beautiful evening after work to have a few drinks with friends or to take in the ballpark experience.
“One thing that brings us here is that Camden Yards is the best ballpark in the United States,” Andrea Mayer said.
Mary Beth Jorgensen ranks Camden Yards among the prettiest stadiums in sports and said that’s a key draw for her as well.
“It’s beautiful here,” said Jorgensen, a longtime fan from Towson, Md.
Before she purchases tickets, Jorgensen runs through a mental checklist. She wants to see whom the Orioles are playing; whether it’ll be a nice night, ideally with no chance of thunderstorms; and then, just as important, whether she can use the game to reconnect with her childhood or bond with family members.
“If all of that works,” Jorgensen said, “then we figure it could be a good night to go.”
Some fans even questioned why anyone follows the team and sits for more than three hours to watch it lose. Why endure traffic, then pay for parking and overpriced beers? Why sometimes wait out rain delays?
“It’s the experience,” Shynay Holland said. “That’s what we’re going for.”
Before a recent game, Holland sat with her son, Sir, munching on chicken and fries in right field. They had arrived late and weren’t yet in their seats during the second inning. They didn’t care.
Holland recalled her mother cheering when the Orioles won the 1983 World Series, the club’s most recent title. Winning had brought hope and optimism to the city where she grew up, and her mother’s excitement left a lasting impression.
Maybe one day, she reasoned, her son will get to experience the same. For now, though, they must make their own reasons to keep showing up for Orioles games.
“He just turned 14,” she said of Sir. “This is better than him playing video games.”