SARASOTA, Fla. -- With the opening of a downtown stadium that's closer to Washington, the Orioles will step up their promotion in the D.C. area.
For the first time in a long time, there is virtually no talk about the nation's capital getting a major-league franchise, leaving the Orioles as the obvious alternative.
Test runs from five different locations in Washington and Northern Virginia have shown the new park to be 20 to 25 minutes closer than Memorial Stadium.
It has been estimated in the past that the Orioles have drawn up to 25 percent of their fans from that area.
With the MARC commuter station next to the new park, the Orioles will be more accessible. In anticipation of increased interest, the Orioles are in the process of hiring somebody full time to handle sales, advertising and marketing in the Washington area.
"If Atlanta can be America's team," said club president Larry Lucchino, "I don't see any reason why we can't be Washington's team."
The Orioles are virtually certain to draw 3 million this year, and some estimates have put the figure closer to 3.5 million. A good bit of the increase from last year's 2.6 million can be attributed to the novelty of a new park.
But the proximity of rapid transit, not only with MARC, but also with the new light-rail system, should also play a prominent role.