O’s let “kids” in free – Is the fighting finally over?

February 26, 2009 | Drew Forrester

When Boston sang “It’s been such a long time…” back in 1976, I doubt very seriously they were trying to capture the spirit of the Orioles and their 21st century marketing efforts.  Alas, that tune just might be the team’s new theme song. 

It appears, maybe (just maybe), that the Orioles are finally starting to get it.

For the last handful of years (I guess a “handful” is somewhere around 5?), the Orioles main marketing philosophy has basically been:  “We’re going to do whatever we want and establish policies as we see fit, no matter how difficult that makes it for the fans.”

And so it went for quite a while.  The ushers in the ballpark were more protective than the guards on the perimeter of a state prison.  Fans who wore “Yankees Suck!” t-shirts were told to change them or turn them inside out.  Anyone who stood up to cheer, heckle or otherwise enjoy themselves drew the wrath of a ballpark employee who threatened eviction “if you can’t stay seated and lower your voice.”

For several years, the stadium lacked energy and enthusiasm for the home team and a lot of that was initiated and even half-embraced by the home team’s front office.  There were wine tastings in Federal Hill that contained more fun and frolic.

Something’s going on now, though.  It really does appear as if the team is going to stop fighting with their fans.  And, with that, they might be bringing people back to the ballpark. The ushers have stopped the Barney Fife-act and cheering for the home team is actually encouraged again. OK, the O’s still cater to the out-of-town fans from New York and Boston, but in all fairness to the Birds, if the Yankees and Red Sox drop out of the league, the attendance in Baltimore would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.3 million a year.  Even when you want to bite the hand that feeds you, you shouldn’t.  

In general, the baseball team has finally given in and decided to treat the fans of Baltimore like they really matter instead of like they really don’t.  

“It’s been such a long time.”

First, in December, the club made the long-awaited change to the team’s road uniforms and begrudgingly placed the word BALTIMORE on the front of the jersey for the first time since 1973, including 15 seasons under the current ownership group.

Now comes word of a terrific concept that the team is going to employ in 2009 — reaching out to kids, in the form of FREE TICKETS (children under 10) for all regular season Thursday home games. Here’s the link to the team’s web-site where all the information can be found.  Getting kids to the game…an outstanding idea for any sport, but particularly baseball, since it’s always been looked at as a great family get-away.

I’ve read most of the fine print in the “Children under 10 get in free” program and I can’t seem to find any catch at all.  Typically, of course, anytime something is free there’s always an asterisk or two with some kind of qualification…but I can’t find one.  Well, there is ONE…each paying adult can bring two kids in for free.  I’d say, though, that falls under “good news” in the fine print, not bad news.  

It’s such a change in style for the O’s that it’s the kind of the situation where you go back to the web site two or three times just to make sure you’re actually reading the whole thing correctly.  

“The Orioles are trying to BRING people to the game instead of drive them away…”  – am I reading that right?

Yep, you are.  

They’re doing something good for the fans.

It’s been such a long time.