So the Orioles are off to a better than anticipated 2-1 start after beating Seattle 7-4, meaning last night would have been a great night to call the Orioles flagship station and praise Dave Trembly for his shrewd handling of the bullpen, or to praise Melvin Mora or Kevin Millar for their nights at the plate. But no, if you’re an Orioles fan, that is not possible. See the Orioles don’t want phone calls after games. Why? They don’t like fans beating them up during what most likely will be another 90+ loss season. Seems nine years of losing got a little under their skin; so last year when they switched affiliates, they ask for this provision. Don’t they understand that this insane policy is stunting fan passion and enthusiasm? And they wonder why there are 33,000 empty seats on a Friday night.
Look no farther than 700 yards down the street. The Ravens have built a large, passionate fan base by interacting with their fans. During the years 1996-98, the character building years as Nestor Aparicio called them, when the team won a combined 16 games, fans called in angry about Ted Marchibroda conservative play calling or grumbled about Donny Brady not being able to cover anyone. Along the way, the passion grew to where fans bought old school buses and turned them into Ravens mobiles or led fans to travel to away games, and to buy out a store’s supply of purple 52 jerseys.
It was those years and that post game show that allowed for the team to build its hardcore following. The bandwagon fans and the people who just go to be seen came later.
If you’re either angry enough or passionate enough to call a station, you’re a real fan. Casual fans don’t wait on hold and don’t vent in public; neither do wine and cheese fans.
Last week coming home from the Nationals game, they were taking calls 30 minutes after the last pitch. People shared their thoughts on the new ball park, their experience at the game, Ryan Zimmerman’s walk-off home run, and yes even complaining about the 10-12,000 fans that left early. Slowly that community is developing a passion for baseball. Here in Baltimore our club is doing everything it can to dissipate that passion.
Sure they would get raked over the coals this season if they lose 100 games, and no one likes being called out in front of a city. Having thin skin isn’t doing the club any good. They have had 24,000 fans combined at two games, and there were by some accounts 8,000 empty seats on opening day. Can you imagine what September will look like?
The Orioles need to reverse their course. Let the flagship open up phone lines. Let the fans vent and let some passion build. Who knows, it might be more positive than they think. Some good things may be happening; let the fans come along for the ride.