"We are so emotionally attached to this guy," Stewart said of the gratitude swimmers feel for how Phelps has elevated the sport.
To illustrate his role in swimming's greater popularity post- than pre-Phelps, Gaines points to the fact that this year, for the first time, NBC will cover every night of the U.S. Olympic swimming trials in Omaha, Neb., that begin June 25, and selected Grand Prix events.
"We only cover the ones Michael's swimming in," he said. "Of course, everyone else receives the benefits of that, but my point is … it's because of Michael, pure and simple. He's grown the sport."
Who might stand between Phelps and multiple trips to the medal stand is also subject to much pre-Olympic speculation. His closest American competitor is Ryan Lochte, who despite a mostly lackluster performance at their last meeting, in Indianapolis, beat him several times in head-to-head matchups in previous years.
A fast Australian team, led by current sensation James Magnussen, is headed to London and poses the biggest threat to U.S. swimmers repeating past gold-medal victories in the always-exciting relay races.
But back in Baltimore, Team Phelps says that even just 100 days out, it's too soon to call favorites going into London.
"We'll have to wait and see," said Bowman, who will be one of the coaches of the U.S. Olympic swim team. Bowman said that because the U.S. trials come later than many other countries, it's impossible to say how the relay teams will stack up against one another.
In other words, first things first. Both he and Phelps say the trials are harder than the Olympics, so that is what where their current focus lies.
"They're very stressful," Bowman said, speaking by phone from a practice at Meadowbrook this week. "You get one chance. Once you make the Olympics, you can almost relax. The goal is to be there. The thought of not making the Olympics is very powerful. Even the best people can't rest on their laurels."
Phelps, for his part, says there's only one thing he can control en route to London.
"I can only prepare myself," he said before the Saturday fundraiser. "I'm only in charge of myself. I know Bob and I can get the job done."
July 27-Aug. 12
Swimming events: July 28-Aug. 4
Medal sports: 26
Medal events: 302
Notable new events: Women's boxing (three weight classes), mixed doubles in tennis and Omnium racing in track cycling