Oriole Park at Camden Yards seats nearly 46,000 and is still considered one of the most beautiful stadiums in baseball. But the ballpark saw its worst attendance in team history this past season, according to the Baltimore Business Journal — and on average, 64 percent of the stadium’s seats remained empty.
Yet through the countless trials and tribulations of recent seasons, some fans have remained loyal season ticket holders. Such die-hards return to the ballpark again and again despite few reasons to celebrate.
This week, some of these fans will get special recognition. A random selection of Orioles season ticket holders will receive a handwritten note from a player, thanking them for their support in these trying times.
The plan was conceptualized by Kristen Hudak, director of public relations for the Orioles, who ran the idea by team leaders and players before carrying it out, the Athletic first reported. About 30 players were asked to take a pen to Orioles stationery, and their letters should arrive soon to local mailboxes.
“I wasn’t sure what the reaction would be. The guys that I spoke to about it were immediately supportive. I saw many of them sit down and start writing right away. It felt like they had something on their minds or something they wanted to say, and that was an opportunity for them to do it in a heartfelt way,” Hudak told the Athletic. “And then, when I started to collect them, I was just really touched and moved by their answers and the time that they took to be thoughtful.”
Thank-you notes are a time-honored way to show gratitude but require both patience and care. The messages didn’t come easy for everyone, Hudak told the Athletic — and there was “some collaboration” as players brainstormed the best way to thank their most loyal fans. Hudak said even players whose native language isn’t English requested to participate, and with the help of translators, reliever Miguel Castro and outfielder Anthony Santander showed their thanks, too.
Some notes were just a couple of sentences, but others featured more lengthy prose. The common themes? Thanking fans for sticking with the team and promising that better times will arrive.
“I’m sure some games were tough for you as a fan, but things will be back to the way they were soon enough!” third baseman Rio Ruiz wrote in his message to a fan named Ron. “Hope to see more of you in the next coming seasons. Many blessings!”
Ruiz told the Athletic that he sympathizes with fans who may feel frustrated. But he and his teammates share a sense of optimism and pride that they want to instill in the letters’ recipients.
“We don’t like losing. But there’s been something about this whole year that’s been positive,” he said. “And it just all started in the clubhouse. If we can reiterate that to the fans, I think it kind of gives them a perspective and a better outlook on what’s to come.”
Pitcher Dillon Tate offered a similarly optimistic outlook, telling season ticket holder Larry that he’s “confident that things will improve.”
“As you probably have seen, there is work to be done. Something I’ve learned this year is that one’s outlook on any given situation has a lot to do with the result,” Tate wrote. “ … Progress is progress, no matter how little. The O’s are moving in the right direction!”
Tate told the Athletic that he sends handwritten notes regularly, and his latest one makes a strong point: The Orioles improved their win total by seven games, have one of the youngest rosters in the majors and are rebuilding their farm system. There’s nowhere to go but up.
If the team wants its most faithful fans to keep showing up in the meantime, a personal, handwritten appeal couldn’t hurt.
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