And they call themselves FANS? O, those Orioles crowds!

Kathy Frazier

April 16, 1993|By Kathy Frazier

WHILE it's certainly terrific that the Orioles are shattering records right and left for baseball crowds, it's a little unsettling to consider who's filling those precious seats at Camden Yards.

L The Orioles may not have as many baseball fans in the stands

as they think.

Consider this:

It's opening night at the Yard. Mike Mussina is starting what would turn out to be a masterful pitching performance that's wasted in extra innings.

"Why are there security guards in the middle of the field?" asks the woman sitting next to me in a prime seat in the upper deck behind home plate.

When asked whom she was referring to, she pointed to the four guys wearing the dark suits. The umpires!

I kid you not. I nearly swallowed a peanut whole.

I inquired, but the woman was not from Mars.

At the same game, a couple in front of me disappeared for several innings, and when they returned, the woman promptly fell asleep. Not even a cascade of boos for Glenn Davis roused her.

The couple departed long before the game was over. I don't think they saw two innings between them. Why did they bother to show up?

And to think hundreds of real baseball fans can't get through the turnstiles.

Last season the row in front of my mini-plan seat apparently was owned by a business or shared by a group, because different people sat there every game. One night a gaggle of 30-somethings spent the entire game discussing corporate takeovers and stock options.

I'm beginning to think the Orioles should require a potential ticket buyer to pass a rudimentary test of baseball knowledge and interest before being allowed inside the park to watch a game.

And it also might be a good idea to make a person's ZIP code a factor. What about the folks who live in Maryland and whose lottery dollars helped pay for the stadium that has proved to be such a cash cow for the Orioles?

As I was leaving the parking garage on Eutaw Street on opening night, I noticed the cars in front of me were all from Virginia, New Jersey or Pennsylvania, and the car behind me was from Pennsylvania. I was cut off a few minutes later by a driver with District of Columbia plates.

Hey, Orioles, that's Baltimore in front of your name -- as much as you might hate to admit it.

How about a little consideration for the fans who have been cheering for the orange and black since long before it became the chic thing to do?

I'm one of the lucky ones, able to buy a season ticket plan before the team deserted Memorial Stadium, but as much as I like Camden Yards, it lacks the atmosphere that we enjoyed on 33rd Street.

Attending Oriole games has become an expensive proposition. (It's no coincidence that there's a bank machine along the warehouse wall.) Many fans can't afford a night at the park, even if they could secure a ticket.

College and high school students no longer come out in force, and there don't seem to be as many young kids in the stands. When I was a kid, my parents took me to 20 games a year, but parents today would need a financial planner to manage that.

Somebody like Wild Bill Hagy might be welcome at the Yard, but only to bring a cab up to the gate to pick up some swell who needs to be chauffeured to the tony Washington suburbs.

Kathy Frazier is assistant sports editor of The Sun and The Evening Sun zoned editions.

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