What Beating the Yankees in the AL East Would Mean to Baltimore
September’s air is growing crisp like it was in April. School has begun in earnest, as the once imposing sunlight grants less time for children to play with friends outside.
Tree leaves have not yet begun to turn. But hints of red amber, orange and gold will soon present themselves in grand fashion.
True, it is football season in Baltimore, which is exhilarating in its own right. But unlike the past 15 years, baseball season is also alive and well in Birdland.
With just 15 games to play, the Baltimore Orioles have surpassed all talk of surpassing expectations.
With excellent leadership, steely resolve and brotherhood, this team is not only on the verge of the postseason; it is also in a dead heat with the New York Yankees for the AL East crown.
While the fog of Baltimore's season has yet to lift, the Birds winning the division would create a three-ringed ripple effect throughout Charm City.
Besides attracting key free agents and bringing revenue to local businesses, here is how their win would affect others.
It May Ease Memories of a Broken Franchise
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Prior to this season, the Orioles had endured misery that made many wonder if this team would ever turn things around.
While Baltimore had a core of solid ball players in Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters, there was very little pitching to suggest this team would compete for the division crown any time soon.
But sometimes in baseball even the most knowledgeable fans dismiss the power of intangibles.
Trent Dilfer's grinning. Buck Showalter has brought out the best in his players. He has made them believe in themselves. This in turn has led to this team believing it can walk away with a win every time it takes the field.
It May Heal the Orioles’ Battered Fan Base
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This belief has slowly spread to Orioles' fans.
Even when this team is trailing, it is tough for fans to turn off the TV or leave the ballpark early.
This is a very far cry from the past decade when the Orioles could not give enough tickets away. And the fans that did attend, nearly always left early to beat traffic.
Yes. Winning helps bring fans back to the ballpark.
But in Baltimore there is so much more to it than this.
See one thing about Baltimoreans is that they LOVE the Orioles. They love them like they loved the Colts before that proud football franchise up and left.
But many outside Baltimore do not realize it was just a short time ago when this loyal fan base had all but severed ties with Orioles.
This was partly because fans that once filled Memorial Stadium thought Birds' brass in no way, shape or form represented “the Oriole way.”
Events in the aftermath of Elrod Hendricks' death, combined with revelations following Mike Flanagan’s suicide, only added to this resentment.
And soon, the beautiful ballpark at Camden Yards fell victim to the sight of emptiness.
But this year things are different. While all the fans have not returned yet (some may never come back), Camden Yards grows fuller by the game.
Some say this transformation is the byproduct of shrewd moves by Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette. Others credit Buck Showalter changing the culture of this team.
Both sides of the aisle in this debate are right.
Whatever the reason (to include winning), the Orioles winning the AL East will go a long way in resolving long-standing tension between fans and team ownership…leadership that may have finally realized how deeply entrenched fans are with this team.
It May Unite Baltimore Community
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To me this is the most important ripple. It is a testament to the true power of sport.
The Orioles winning the AL East would have a big impact on the Baltimore community.
It is a difficult thing to explain, but people living in cities with winning teams tend to find it a little easier to smile through hardship each day. Many also find it a bit easier to give that courteous nod to strangers.
Also neat is watching people in neighborhoods unite under one common sports banner of orange and black.
Local businesses, including taverns, also reap the benefits…not just in cash but also in camaraderie.
And by community, we should not forget the impact on youth.
Remember there are many teens in the Baltimore area that have never seen a winning home baseball team. And there are many young kids who look to the current Orioles players as heroes.
It is amazing how a winning team can spark a rise in participation in baseball, especially in the inner-city.
Regardless of age, if you are an Orioles fan it is important to soak up every great moment as this team looks to win the AL East.
Enjoy the fact that this baseball-starved town is alive with excitement. If you are at the ballpark, take a second to appreciate the sea of orange and black around you.
Feel the heightened morale in your soul. Raise your prayers a little more in church that this team remains on the right path.
Be excited to get out with neighbors and talk baseball like we did before technology turned us into robots.
Wear those jerseys and cartoon bird hats with pride.
Most importantly, give thanks to this blue-collar team of journeymen who are teaming like brothers to achieve something completely unexpected: winning the AL East.
Beating the Yankees to get there?
That's just the icing on the cake.