Has occasionally been held up in the...

BECAUSE BALTIMORE

March 17, 1995

BECAUSE BALTIMORE has occasionally been held up in the baseball strike as the epitome of success for a major league baseball market, it perhaps can lay claim to being one of the communities hurt most by the strike.

Admittedly, this is a conclusion based more on feeling than figures, although a city planning department study following the first season at Oriole Park at Camden Yards suggested the new stadium was worth at least $40 million in economic spinoff and a University of Baltimore economist estimates that figure is closer to $100 million now. But the impasse between baseball team owners and players that began last August damned up that gusher of profit and civic pride.

Come this time of the year, Marylanders usually shake off the winter blues with reports out of Florida's Grapefruit League of the latest line-up tinker and of wholehearted predictions for the Orioles to make a pennant run. You can sense the pace quicken downtown as bars, restaurants and shops gear up for the baseball crowds. The impact of the renowned Camden Yards is immense, rippling all the way out to suburban hotels and even boosting the tourist steam train that chugs out of the Western Maryland mountains.

The climactic arrival of Opening Day becomes a veritable state holiday, certainly of the mind if not the body for those of us not fortunate enough to secure tickets.

Some Baltimoreans cherish the Orioles as the remaining sports entity that makes the town "major league," but the truth is the team draws out a "small town" closeness. It's like a high school team for a class of four million.

Admittedly, it's a struggle to get sentimental about the loss of the American pastime with reports of superstars' losing as much money per day as the average worker earns in a year. Nevertheless, based on the comments of many players who spent time with the Orioles over the years, as well as the experiences of Marylanders who have lived elsewhere, we can't imagine too many places left with a larger emotional void from the baseball strike than Charm City.

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