Amid mounting fan frenzy, the Orioles began cashing in this summer on the team's runaway success.
Capitalizing on the expected demand for postseason tickets this year, the team pitched 2015 season ticket plans with the opportunity to buy seats for October baseball at Camden Yards.
The pitch proved successful. And as the Orioles continued to win, sweeping the Detroit Tigers in the American League Division Series, team officials expanded the program, offering more guaranteed games for buyers of larger season ticket packages.
But as tickets for the American League Championship Series went on sale Tuesday for select season ticket holders, many said they felt shortchanged by the club's reach for new customers.
"What bothers me is I've been a season-ticket holder since the mid-'90s through all of those losing seasons," said Josh Sroka, 34, of Arnold. "For the ALCS, they lumped the 13-game ticket holders with anybody signing up for next year's tickets."
A slew of 13-game ticket-plan holders like Sroka took to social media to protest that they had to compete in the playoffs presale with fans just putting down deposits for next season. They said the club's website frequently produced error messages and that some were denied tickets after more than an hour's wait.
The Orioles have not been in the American League Championship Series since 1997, and fans seem starved to see them against the Kansas City Royals beginning Friday night at Camden Yards. Standing-room slots are selling for more than $150 on third-party online sites, and the best box seats are being offered at more than $1,500 on StubHub, the fan-to-fan ticket reseller.
Orioles spokesman Greg Bader called demand "exceedingly high."
The club announced Tuesday it was offering new 20- and 40-game ticket plans for next season, and that fans putting down deposits will be assured access to a select number of home game tickets for the championship series and a possible World Series. The team said the 13-game plans that include this year's postseason tickets are sold out, but fans who placed deposits on 29- or 81-game plans by 5 p.m. Wednesday are guaranteed playoff seats.
The club said its policies did not undercut existing plan holders.
Bader said all 13-game plan holders were offered an opportunity more than a month ago to buy tickets to Game 2 of the league championship series and World Series if the Orioles advance that far.
But some were left wanting more.
Zach Peirson, a 13-game ticket plan holder, dubbed his experience Tuesday "The Baltimore Boondoogle." He waited more than an hour on the Orioles website before signing off without receiving tickets. Peirson, 26, of Lancaster, Pa., took a screen shot of a recurring error message, which attributed the problem to "high transaction volumes."
Another fan, Patrick Nagle, 32, of Baltimore took a video of the same error message while he was on the phone with an Orioles ticket representative.
"What you're telling me is there is nothing you can do," Nagle is heard telling the representative. Nagle said he recently put down a $500 deposit for two 2015 13-game ticket plans so he could access Tuesday morning's presale.
Tuesday's rush created an online traffic jam, Bader said.
"There were no glitches; there were no issues other than extremely high demand," Bader said. "High demand for a limited product is unfortunately going to be a frustrating experience for some. We are confident that an overwhelming majority did get ultimately to buy tickets for a postseason game."
The club held championship series presales last week for its 29-game and 81-game ticket holders. Bader said remaining tickets — mostly for scattered single seats and limited-view seats — will be offered to the public at noon Thursday.
"We did not want a situation where the general public did not have an opportunity to buy tickets," he said
After games in Baltimore on Friday and Saturday, the series shifts to Kansas City on Monday night.
Orioles fans looking to see the club in Kansas City likely won't find ticket bargains there either. Vivid Seats, a secondary market seller, said Tuesday that the Royals led all teams in the divisional series with a median ticket price of $269. The Orioles were second at $189.
Flights to Kansas City on Southwest, the largest carrier out of Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, were rapidly selling out Sunday and Monday. A one-way trip could not be had for less than $400.
Orioles fan Perry Gorelik, 29, of Columbia isn't traveling to Kansas City.
But the multimedia specialist said he can relate to fans who will spend more money than they might ever have imagined on baseball.
"It's potentially a once-in-a-lifetime thing," Gorelik said. "That's the huge internal struggle."