The Orioles are fighting to get back to the top of the America League East standings, but there are certain members of the organization who are assuming that the club will overtake the Toronto Blue Jays and play in the postseason for the first time since 1983.
There is a lot more to postseason play than just opening the gates and filling the house at $45 per seat. Preparations for a possible one-game intradivisional playoff, the American League Championship Series and the World Series are expensive, time-consuming and -- if the season goes sour -- a frustrating exercise in futility. But most of them have to be made long before the division race is decided.
Ticket applications already have gone out to Orioles season-ticket and mini-plan holders. The postseason media guide and playoff program already are being put together. Construction bids are being taken for the alterations necessary to get Oriole Park ready for prime time.
"It's complicated by the fact that it is the first time we've done it here," said Bob Aylward, the Orioles vice president in charge of business affairs. "Once we've gone over all the operational questions once, it will be easier. This is definitely going to help us for the All-Star Game in 1993."
That will be the only consolation if the Orioles fail to make the playoffs this year. The club will spend tens of thousands of dollars to put the perfect end on a surprising season, even if the players do not cooperate.
"It's not so much the finances as the stress and the workload that the whole front office has to go through," public relations director Rick
Vaughn said. "That's all on top of the work everyone already is doing."
Talk about a million details. The club already has arranged for hotel accommodations for scores of visiting club officials and hundreds of sportswriters and broadcasters. The ballpark has been blueprinted for a temporary auxiliary press box, temporary bleacher seats and two extra rows of VIP seats in front of the
field boxes. The concessionaire, ARA Services, has been alerted to the hundreds of extra meals that will have to be distributed to visiting media and network technical crews.
"It's a mammoth, mammoth job," Aylward said.
The Orioles aren't looking for sympathy. They will happily accept this burden year after year in exchange for a contending ballclub. But there is much more to the final month of a successful season than anyone outside the organization might realize.
The Orioles may already have sent out applications for postseason tickets, but the task of printing and distributing playoff and World Series tickets still is ahead.
The club just got permission Friday to begin printing the tickets, which will be distributed soon after the Sept. 18 deadline for season-ticket holders and other ticket-plan owners to place their orders.
Season-ticket holders are entitled to buy a ticket for each postseason game for every season ticket they hold. Fans with 29-game plans are entitled to two playoff games and two World (( Series games. Fans with 13-game plans will get to buy a like number of tickets for one playoff and one World Series game.
The club will determine after the Sept. 18 deadline how many tickets will be available for public sale and announce plans to distribute them.
In anticipation of a tremendous media crush to view the playoffs atthe new ballpark, the Orioles already have set aside three sections of the club level (in left field) for an auxiliary press box. The club also is expected to equip the auxiliary clubhouse as a press work room and must set aside other areas for network television equipment and technicians.
The main press box also will require some augmentation, but the major expense will be in the construction of work tables in the auxiliary press box, installation of hundreds of power outlets in all media work areas and the installation of at least 60 extra telephone lines. The club also has to set up interview rooms and cable sound and live video to each press box.
Not all of this work must be done this far in advance, but the planning still costs both money and man-hours, and much of the work will have to be started if the division race goes right down to the final day. If a one-game divisional playoff is possible, the situation gets even more complicated.
"In 1989, we had the carpenters standing by," Vaughn said. "If we had won on Friday or Saturday night in Toronto, they would have gone right to work."
The Orioles stand to lose 648 prime seats to the auxiliary press box alone, so plans are being made to expand the capacity of the ballpark by as many as 1,500 seats.
The club is taking bids on construction of bleachers on the flag court behind right field and may even install temporary seats behind the bullpens in center field.
"Right now, we're getting bids on what it will cost to put them up and make sure it makes sense to do so," Aylward said.