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Orioles fans overjoyed at first playoff run in 15 years

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Orioles fans were still bubbling Saturday morning, many clad in orange while going for their morning jog or cup of joe, basking in the baseball glow that took more than a decade to shine on the city.

"It's been rejuvenating the city," said James Parsons, 33, of Locust Point as he and his family took a walk to the Fort Avenue Starbucks. "It's been rough because it's been 15 years since they've been relevant."

Parson and his wife, Sarah, chuckled as her 1-year-old son Brandon, bedecked in Orioles gear played with his hat. The couple was just discussing baby-sitting plans as they look forward to using the Yankees game tickets they secured.

"We're happy for him because he gets this in his first year," she said. "We've been waiting our whole lives."

For 21-year-old Alyssa Manas-Hall, of Parkville, orange is part of the obligatory dress code for her job at Hooter's of downtown, but on Saturday, she was awash in the color — from sunglasses to shoes — by choice.

"They were so bad, and now they're so good—it's just awesome," she said, adding that the restaurant and bar has also been able to stave off what has traditionally been the start of a slow season because of the Oriole's success.

Vanessa Dallatezza, 42, who owns Sign-A-Rama in Baltimore, said she was happy to see that the Oriole's success was helping the local economy. "It was kind of like we were cheated before," Dallatezza said.

Brian Kartel, 41, of Federal Hill, was still on his high from watching Friday night's game at Mother's Federal Hill Grille, as he took his daughter Halloween Costume shopping.

"When you looked at the patio, it was full of people and it was just amazing to have it all happening again," Kartel said.

"And this team," he added, "they're something special."

Baltimore City police reported no major incidents after Friday night's game.

It was easy to spot Caitlin McCleary through a sea of orange at Cross Street Market on Friday: She was the one who locked her fingers together, brought her hands up to her face and kept her eyes closed for much of the ninth inning — as if in prayer.

And when the crowd at Nick's Oyster Bar erupted as the Orioles beat the Rangers 5-1 to advance to the playoffs, she said all of the agony she had endured was worth it.

"I'm young, but I've been a Baltimore fan all my life," the 23-year-old Catonsville resident yelled over the crowd minutes after the game ended. "I love this game. It's so wonderful, I can't express it. It's out of control."

Fans celebrated in the streets of Federal Hill early Saturday as they poured out of bars and restaurants where they had been watching the game. Drivers of cars and buses honked their horns, either in support of the team or in frustration with the traffic — it didn't matter. Sam Tiburzi, a 22-year-old who lives in the city, stopped in the middle of Light Street to embrace a friend.

"It means everything," Tiburzi said later from the safety of the sidewalk, noting that he was 7 years old the last time the Orioles went to the playoffs 15 years ago. "It's emotional — I'm so proud to be from Baltimore."

With the game in Texas, the area immediately surrounding Camden Yards was quiet. But a few blocks to the south, the streets roared with every big play. Bars offered drink specials tied to the game — the "O-bomb," for instance — announced on sidewalk chalkboards. Two young boys ran up to the firehouse on the corner of Light and Montgomery streets to announce the score to a crew who had just returned from a run.

After the dinner rush faded at nearby Regi's, a crowd lingered late at the bar, eating dessert in front of the televisions there. The scene was a bit more relaxed, but Russ Karpook was nevertheless monitoring the game intensely — interrupting his conversations repeatedly to shift back to the screen.

"I bleed orange and I've bled orange all my life," said the 65-year-old attorney who was a season ticket holder for 36 years. "I'm just so happy to see the young people getting into the Orioles…It's monumental."

Few events bring an entire city together like having a team advance to the postseason. And the celebrations are likely to become even more passionate as the Orioles return to Camden Yards to face the New York Yankees on Sunday night for their first playoff game.

Several fans said they hope the playoffs will offer an important opportunity to showcase Baltimore to the rest of the country in the same way that the Grand Prix has done. Never mind the man who stood on a corner hitting himself with a blowup bat, threatening to "spank the Yanks."

A group of young women stopped to take their picture with him.

Richard Lyles, who gathers with his friends every week in front of Cross Street Tobacco to smoke a cigar and people watch, said the electric atmosphere that builds every Friday and Saturday night in Federal Hill was far more powerful. For one thing, it took him nearly 45 minutes to find a parking spot.

"It's a lot different," said Lyles, who swung around to monitor the game through the tobacco shop's window every time cheers echoed down the street. "Everybody has Orioles spirit."

In addition to lifting the city's morale, the win could help one local Democrat raise campaign cash. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger scheduled a fundraiser in a suite at Camden Yards on Sunday, Washington-based "Politico" reported. It wouldn't have been much of an event without a game.

"Proud to be an Orioles fan," Ruppersberger posted on Twitter early Saturday. "Let's keep it going."

Freddie Chalmers walked out of Cross Street Market clapping loudly — but it was the relieved look on his face that set him apart.

"Fifteen years of futility," the 32-year-old Perry Hall man said when asked why the win was so important to him personally. "It's absolutely invigorating. We're the best town in America tonight."

john.fritze@baltsun.com

egreen@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jfritze

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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