• Aug

    A Plan for the O's

    Every once in a while a writer comes into a town and immediately connects. Unlike the Sun’s former import Laura Vecsey, who’s lack of connection with the city (Afterall, she did basically call Ray Lewis a murderer when she was in Seattle) and even worse lack of sports knowledge made her extremely unpopular, the Sun’s latest import Rick Maese has been a breath of fresh air.


    Maese shows how much he gets it in his latest article when he talks about how the Orioles need to reconnect with the city. The one thing the Baltimore fan wants is for the players on the team to want to be here, to want to be part of the Baltimore community.


    Afterall, why do you think BJ Surhoff has a special place in a lot of Orioles fans hearts despite his mediocre numbers his last few years in uniform? It’s because the guy cried when he was traded and then came back to the team as soon as he could. Certainly family considerations were involved, but let’s face it, Orioles fans believe Surhoff wanted to play in Baltimore.


    The Orioles are not going to turn back the clock on baseball’s financial system that encourages movement of players from team to team, but what they can do is make the Orioles a family again, a Baltimore family.


    Say what you want about George Steinbrenner and the Yankees, but once a Yankee always a Yankee. Steinbrenner is often seen in his luxury box cheering it up when the team does well and looking frustrated when the team does not. That tells the fan he cares. When was the last time Peter Angelos was seen at Camden Yards?


    ESPN had a nice segment in its make a wish pieces that showed a young Yankee fan who just wanted to meet Derek Jeter. They brought him to the park and Jeter and other Yankees, one after another played around with him as they took BP. Certainly any team would have done something similar, but what struck me about the piece was Reggie Jackson in uniform. Jackson was joking (well maybe half joking knowing Reggie’s king size ego) that he couldn’t believe the kids had never heard of him. Either way, Jackson had played for many teams, but there he was, a connection to the past in uniform and mingling with the team during to batting practice.


    That’s the kind of environment the Orioles need to foster, and it starts at the top. Fans are upset with the Orioles as they finish up their 9th straight losing season. Most of the anger is put towards Mr. Angelos for various reasons, but also because he’s become a lot like the Wizard of Oz . We hear rumors that he controls all, but he’s rarely seen or even heard from and I’m pretty sure you have to walk down a long corridor with flames and a big floating head at the end to see him.


    Either way, it’s time for Mr. Angelos to change the way he operates. We know he’s done lots for charities and supposedly cares deeply about the Orioles winning, so it’s time for him to reconnect with the city and the team’s fan.


    First, he needs to open up the pocketbook this off season even if that means overpaying players to come here. Each perspective free agent that Orioles target should be brought here for a first class tour of the city and ballpark. Former O’s players like Boog Powell, Jim Palmer, Paul Blair, Randy Milligan and others who have chosen to make Baltimore their home after playing should be brought in to talk about what it’s like to be part of the Baltimore community. After all, a lot people get their impression of the city from TV shows like Homicide and The Wire, two fine shows, but shows that really only tell a portion of the city’s life.


    Secondly, this year’s fan fest should go all out, especially by bringing in not only current major and minor league players, but past ones. Forget having every player work the signature booths. Rather, provide fan forums where the player can sit in a room and just talk to fans. This is a great way for players and fans to connect to one another, and not the whole impersonal wait in line for two hours to get a 15 seconds of conversation while a player scratches his name on a picture.


    Next, get the major and minor league camps together in one place. On day one of the camp, every player goes into an auditorium and sees a 15 minutes video filled with great moments of the Orioles past. In the end it should say, “It’s time for you to make the next great Orioles moment.” The major league manager should then follow with a welcome address that talks about the “Orioles Way” of class and dignity and winning at all levels.


    Maybe it sounds a little cheeky, but the players will know they are part of a family and becoming part of something special.


    Next, put the money into a new state of the art Dominican Complex. First class dormitories, dining facilities and fields will go a long way in getting top talent to sign with the organization. English classes should be available as well as educational classes that will help the players when they are through playing professional ball. Again, a first class family should be first class all the way around.


    Lastly, show up to the games Mr. Angelos. Let’s see you cheer the O’s on or look down when they lose. Let’s see you show everyone that you are a Baltimorean and that you live and die by the team as well. After all, thousands of people a day visit the Hangout even in the dog days of August when the Orioles have been playing for nothing but pride for the last nine years.


    The fans and city want to reconnect to the O’s. They want a first class organization that they can be proud of. The MASN deal is finally finished, and the financial future of the organization is finally firm. There can be no more excuses.


    Only Mr. Angelos can make this happen and this off-season should tell us everything we need to know.

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Tony Pente

Tony has owned and operated Orioles Hangout since 1996 and is well known for his knowledge of the Baltimore Orioles organization from top to bottom. He's a frequent guest on Baltimore-area sports radio stations and can be heard regularly on the 105.7 FM The Fan. His knowledge and contacts within the Orioles minor league system and the major league baseball scouting industry is unparalleled in the Baltimore media and is known as an expert on the Orioles prospects.