Ballpark visit is the right thing to do this weekend

May 29, 2009 | Drew Forrester

If EVERYONE is right – everyone who knows baseball, that is – then tonight is the first day of the rest of the Orioles’ life.

It won’t happen right away, of course.  There’s still more losing to come.  And perhaps it’s not fair to qualify Matt Wieters’ arrival in Baltimore as the final touch of “the plan”.  After all, Wieters can’t pitch.  But if he turns out to be the Mike Piazza-in-waiting that scouts, executives and players are saying he can be, this evening’s debut against the Tigers will be nothing more than a dress rehearsal for that Fall evening sometime in the next few years when the bunting is up and the network announcers are in Baltimore for playoff baseball.

The Orioles have done their part.  On the heels of the worst (announced) crowd in franchise history, the Birds evened out the disappointment of Tuesday night’s gathering of 3,000 friends and family by informing the Baltimore sports community that Friday night would mark Matt Wieters’ debut in the major leagues. 

It gave everyone 72 hours to get tickets, get a babysitter and get pumped.  For a club mired in a lengthy PR/Marketing slump, that was a crafty, well-timed move. 

I said it on Wednesday morning and again yesterday during the Comcast Morning Show:  This coming weekend is, in my opinion, “unconditional support” weekend in Baltimore.

You might be reading this right now and mumbling to yourself, “I’m not giving in now…I haven’t gone to a game in X amount of years and I’m not going back now just because of some hotshot catcher.”

You could be one of the many – 250,000 or more? – in Maryland who no longer even considers handing the team your hard earned money for tickets, peanuts or a hat.  There are A LOT of you out there like that.  The team disconnected with you in the early part of this decade and they’ve done little to try and get you back.  

You just might not care that much anymore.  

I’m saying, this weekend, that the “disconnected” should put all of that angst on the side and head to the ballpark for the one of the three games against Detroit.  Give them your unconditional support, even if just for one game.

On Monday morning, you can return to your “old self” and continue on with your own personal protest.  

I’ve never once encouraged folks to NOT go to the ballpark, even during these lean times when the team’s performance on the field has been, occasionally, minor league’ish, and their marketing and PR has been, mostly, less than minor league’ish. 

I’ve often asked the question, “if the team’s not trying to win, why should you spend your money on tickets?”  After all, don’t you go to the games in hopes the home team wins?  Sure you do.  And lately, over the last year or so, there’s been a definite smell of the team NOT trying to win. Therefore, I’ve said, “why should you go and care if the team doesn’t care?”

This weekend, the team is bringing up their prized minor league possession and they’re doing it because they feel he’s ready to help them win. 

And, with that, I think everyone should go to the ballpark and be part of the arrival of Matt Wieters.

Go out, enjoy yourself, and bask in the glow of this:  The club is getting better.  (For the record, by the way, I bet Glenn a chinese lunch on Thursday morning’s show that Toronto will finish in 5th place this year and the O’s will have a better record than the Blue Jays at season’s end.)  It might not even all come together this year — after all, Nolan Reimold can’t possibly hit .310 all season. And I’d wager money right now that Bergesen and Birken and Hernandez will all be below .500 and have an ERA above the league average in September if they make 15 or more starts.  There’s a lot of work to be done, more quality minor leaguers to come up and more decisions to be made.

But the club is getting better.

And that’s all anyone can ask for, right? 

That’s all we’ve been b*tching about at WNST for the last few years.  That’s why 2,000 of us got together at the ballpark in September, 2006:  to say, “this s**t’s not gonna fly much longer…fix this mess or sell the team to someone who will.”

The O’s staffers who hung out of the windows of the Warehouse that afternoon giving us “thumbs-up” and waving “Free The Birds!” signs told us we were right for what we did.  Hell, WE knew we were right for what we were doing.

Friday night – and this weekend - is a victory for every Baltimore baseball fan — even the ones who haven’t been going during this decade of despair.  When the club gave Wieters his $6 million signing bonus in August of 2007, that might have been their way of saying, “We’re going to fix this mess and this kid will be the one to help us fix it.”

I don’t care who fixes it or how it gets fixed, frankly.

We just need our team back.

And we need the seats filled again.

Baltimore needs to be proud of the baseball franchise…the way it was in the 60′s, 70′s, 80′s and 90′s.

This weekend, for the first time in a long time, people can go and enjoy themselves and know in their heart of hearts that things might be changing for the good.

There’s no $2 bobblehead give-away to spike the crowds.  They don’t need to give out a t-shirt or a baseball hat to lure folks into the stadium.  

This weekend, you can go out and watch baseball and see a team that’s finally trying to win. 

It’s way better than getting a bobblehead or a t-shirt. 

People in Baltimore deserve this weekend – and the team deserves your support, as well.

If only for a weekend, put your issues aside and remind the team – like we did in September, 2006 – that you’ll come out and support the franchise if they’re actually as interested in winning as they are in making money. 

In Matt We Trust.

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