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Orioles' 2014 success is magnet for ticket buyers

The windfall of last season's memorable playoff push was evident Wednesday as the Orioles said rising ticket demand means that not all multiple-game plan holders will be guaranteed seats for opening day.

Orioles fan Anthony Bochniak was so disenchanted by the team's habitual losing that he took off the first 23 years of the Camden Yards era, refusing to venture to the stadium even once — until Wednesday.

The 71-year-old Baltimore retiree not only ended his boycott, he was first in line to purchase single-game tickets for the coming season — evidence that the club's success in 2014 is a magnet even for the most disillusioned fans.

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"I'm here because they turned it around last year," he said. "They lost the 'loser' tag."

Bochniak was among "a steady stream of buyers," mostly online, seizing the opportunity when single-game seats became available, Orioles spokesman Greg Bader said.

The Orioles advanced to the American League Championship Series last season for the first time since 1997. The windfall from that playoff push is evidenced by the club's recent announcement that not all multiple-game plan holders are guaranteed seats for Opening Day.

"This is the first year that we are unable to guarantee all 13-game plan members Opening Day tickets, and it is entirely due to the number of season plan holders increasing for 2015," Bader said. "We will work to accommodate existing 13-game-plan members based on seniority, though it is unlikely that everyone who wants Opening Day tickets will be able to get them."

The team's success heightened interest in its 81-game and 29-game ticket packages, though Bader declined to provide specific numbers on sales. Those plan holders are guaranteed tickets for the home opener April 10 against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The most senior 13-game plan buyers — those who have held their tickets for at least three full seasons — "should also certainly have the ability to get Opening Day tickets," Bader said.

The remaining 13-game ticket holders can take their chances in an online sale March 19. Plan members will be notified via email of a login time for the sale.

Remaining tickets for the 80 games after Opening Day went on sale Wednesday morning.

"There are plenty of seats available," Bader said.

Bochniak and 10 other fans stood in line on a dank, overcast morning before the ticket windows opened at 10 a.m.

Bochniak had circled 11 games on the Orioles schedule. The ticket attendant informed him of the seating options for each. "What's the next date, hon?" she asked several times.

Bochniak, who said he came in person to buy tickets because he doesn't have a computer, ended up purchasing tickets for seven games. He chose the games based on the visiting teams he wanted to see, making certain the dates did not conflict with his regular golf outings.

Other fans in line said they showed up in person for convenience and to avoid online problems and processing fees. For a $66 ticket, online fees pushed the price to $77.75.

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"To have the ticket in your hands is always good," said David Papenfuse, 40, who bought tickets for a June 27 game in which the club is giving away a garden gnome modeled after manager Buck Showalter.

Last year's average attendance of 30,806 — which ranked in the middle of the pack of major league clubs — marked the first time Camden Yards had averaged more than 30,000 since 2005.

Bader attributed increased demand this year to a few factors.

"Advancing to the ALCS certainly assisted in driving our season plan member base higher," he said. "We also believe the decision not to raise ticket prices has also led to some good season ticket numbers."

Seeking to capitalize on its postseason success, the club originally offered new 20-game and 40-game plans last fall. Fans putting down deposits were guaranteed access to a select number of home game tickets for the championship series and a possible World Series.

But the club decided this year to scrap the new plans, saying it contacted fans who committed to the new options to ask how they wanted to proceed.

"We did not want to overcomplicate the message to fans coming off a year in which the team had great success on and off the field," Bader said. " We have an opportunity to grow our season ticket membership and believe that 13- and 29-game plans, at least at this time, represent the best opportunity for us to do so."

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