www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/harford/belair/ph-ag-orioles-1003-20121001,0,4763243.story

baltimoresun.com

Harford residents root, root, root for Orioles as they head toward playoffs

BY BRYNA ZUMER, bzumer@theaegis.com

4:42 PM EDT, October 1, 2012

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From Camden Yards to Bel Air's Main Street, sports fans fair weather and otherwise said they are glad to see the Baltimore Orioles become a source of pride again.

Now that the Birds are in the American League playoffs for the first time in 15 years, many people in Bel Air are even willing to seriously entertain the notion, for the first time in recent memory, that the O's could make it to the World Series.

Bel Air town commissioner Dave Carey, who went to games Friday and last Monday, called the winning streak "exciting."

"It's nice to see Baltimore be a baseball town again," Carey said while having lunch at The Dark Horse on Monday. "The buzz is back. Camden Yards, for a lot of games, has been really depressing. It's great to go down there and feel excited."

The Orioles, who are tied with the Yankees for the American League East lead, are headed for their potential divisional tie-breaker Thursday. If they lose the tie-breaker, they would face a wild card showdown on Friday in either Baltimore, Oakland or Arlington, Texas.

"It's just incredible," Carey, a longtime baseball fan, said. "I am a big O's fan and I follow them win or lose."

He was impressed by their new record this summer.

"Ninety-two wins; they are one of the best teams," he said incredulously. "I thought 80 wins was a good season."

Carey thought the Birds simply decided to finally step up their game.

"Fourteen years of losing takes its toll," he said, referring to the last time the team was in the playoffs. "Since 1997, Baltimore was a football town, and now it's back."

Jim Winner, of Bel Air, was at the bar in Looney's and said he has also noticed a difference since the Orioles started improving.

"Nobody offers you free tickets anymore," Winner observed. "It's rather remarkable."

A Philadelphia native, Winner said he follows both the Phillies and Orioles but is glad to see the Birds doing better.

Asked if he was surprised they are playing that well, he answered: "From the beginning of the year, yes. From the All-Star break, no."

He was referring to the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in July, when the Orioles had more than the obligatory one representative.

Winner said he has gone to three or four games this year and was one of those who "absolutely" thought the O's could go to the World Series.

"They are going to be hard to beat," he said, adding he attributes the success to their pitchers, both relief and otherwise.

"Their bullpen is the reason why they are there – and good starting pitching," Winner said.

Sophia Vanschaick, of Abingdon, was wearing an orange shirt with catcher Matt Wieters' number, 32, as she walked down Main Street.

"I have been an O's fan for a good 17, 18 years, so I have been waiting for this for a long time now," she said excitedly about the Orioles' accomplishment.

Vanschaick said she was definitely surprised the have gotten as far as they have.

"I thought this was a year that we would be happy that they did [a record of] 500, and it's very exciting," she said.

She was confident about them making it to the World Series as well.

"I really, really want them to," she said, adding it still might be hard because a team like the Texas Rangers, a likely contender were the O's to go to the playoffs, might come "back really tough."

Vanschaick said co-workers and people around town are buzzing about the team's success.

"Everybody is really excited about it," she noted.

Sisters Lora and Nancy Graves moved to Bel Air from Union Hill, Ala., about two years ago, and they, too, are thrilled about the Birds' record.

They said Walmart, where they both work, has been filled with Orioles enthusiasts.

"It's like an ocean of orange," Nancy Graves, who was very optimistic about the team's prospects, said.

"They are going to go all the way," she said.

Lora Graves said she has only been able to go to one game but is happy to support the Orioles, as well as her native Alabama Crimson Tide football team, the Ravens and the University of Maryland Terrapins.

"I am just happy and proud of them, and I want them to go all the way to the World Series," Lora Graves said eagerly. "They are the team to watch; they are the team to beat."

"I have been trying to follow them all I can on TV," she said. "I started rooting for them last year, even when their record wasn't the best."

"I think maybe it's just their time," she said about their newfound glory. "You know, that right place, right time?"

Dave Price, who was at the Tower bar on Main Street, said he thought the Orioles manager would have taken longer to turn the team around.

"I think the real [reason] is Buck Showalter. That was his forte," Price said. "I thought it would take him longer than three years."

Price said he went to two games this year, which is "two more than usual."

Susan Geslois, of Bel Air, said she has not followed the Orioles closely in a long time but is happy for them.

"I am excited for them. I think it's great, because it's been so long since they have done anything like this," she said, explaining she mostly did not enjoy going into the city.

"I like baseball a lot, but the reason I really haven't followed them a lot is because I don't like going to Baltimore," she said.

Geslois has nevertheless heard "a lot of buzz" about the Birds and said friends are talking about the team.

"It's a good thing," she said.