Orioles' postseason presents happy conflicts

Baseball or Beethoven? Block party with live music, or couch party to watch the playoffs?

"It's a happy dilemma to have," says Mike Evitts, a spokesman for the Downtown Partnership, among a number of groups whose previously scheduled events this week face sudden competition from the Baltimore Orioles' unexpected march into the postseason.


Unexpected, after 14 losing seasons, and unpredictable as well: With tight races for divisional titles and wild-card berths that won't be settled until the regular season ends Wednesday night, when, where and which team the Orioles will play remains up in the air.

You need some combination of algebraic and psychic powers to figure out the next several days of play: Should the Orioles tie the Yankees for first place in the American League East, for example, they would have a one-game playoff on Thursday at Camden Yards. If they don't win the division, the Orioles would end up in the wild-card round, which would mean a Friday game. And, should they make it to the divisional series, that starts Saturday or Sunday.


Everyone from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, which has concerts Thursday through Saturday, to restaurants and street vendors near Camden Yards is trying to figure out how to accommodate fans.

"I kind of pre-planned for it with the beer companies," said Rachel Sheubrooks, owner of Sliders restaurant and bar across from Camden Yards, of her suppliers. "Everybody's on standby. We just don't know exactly what day."

The uncertainty has Baltimore's other birds, the Ravens, possibly delaying an Oct. 8 event, "A Purple Evening," should the Orioles play at home that night. The Ravens will decide Wednesday whether the event, a ladies' night out, will be pushed to Nov. 5.

Contingency plans are in the works as well for the Downtown Partnership, which is seeking permission from Major League Baseball to show a possible Orioles game at the group's Friday evening block party. The party, under a tent being erected on Hopkins Plaza, is open to all and will feature live music by Arbouretum, a local band heading off on a European tour.

"We're trying to figure out how not to lose Orioles fans to their corner bars," Evitts said. "We don't want the band to feel like its in competition with the Orioles, but everyone's going to be checking their phones anyway."

Ironically, the partnership had picked this Thursday and Friday for its annual meeting and subsequent party after realizing that its first choice, those same days last week, coincided with the Ravens' home game against the Cleveland Browns.

With the Orioles long out of contention by this time of year, football usually poses possible conflicts for schedulers.

"It definitely plays a role. We try to avoid Super Bowl Sunday at all costs," said Eileen Andrews, a BSO spokeswoman.

Andrews said the symphony has received no more than the usual number of requests from subscribers to exchange tickets for this weekend's concerts for others later in the season. But she said more requests might come in as the schedule clarifies. Subscribers can exchange tickets for free; individual ticket buyers must pay $5.

With the Orioles and the Nationals in the postseason, and this weekend's BSO concerts both at Strathmore in the Washington suburbs and at the Meyerhoff in Baltimore, the musicians might have more than a few distracted audience members. Andrews said most will wait until in between musical pieces or intermission to check their phones for game updates.

For at least one BSO musician, Randy Campora, the baseball-vs.-Beethoven tug of war doesn't have to be settled this week. There are no trombone parts in Beethoven's "Eroica" or the two other shorter pieces on the program, so this Orioles fan will watch from the comforts of home.

He'll text his fellow Orioles-loving colleagues in the orchestra, though, so that when they head offstage during program breaks they can get the news — although the television in the musicians' lounge likely will be tuned to the game. It's all part of being part of another local team of players, the 27-year BSO veteran said.


"I'm sure there will be a lot of checking phones in the hall during breaks," Campora said. "The feeling in the hall when something's going on, whether its an approaching snowstorm or anything that's going on in the outside world, it's kind of exciting."

Conductors sometimes announce the score of a game from the podium, though it is not known if this week's visiting baton-wielder, Markus Stenz, will opt to do that. Still, the unspoken if shared excitement will be palpable, Campora predicted.

"I just remember when there is anticipation shared by two and half thousand people, all thinking about the same thing, it has a unifying effect," he said. "You don't always get that feeling, that you're all in the same moment in time."

One event, the Baltimore Fire Department's annual "Thrill Show," lucks out this year with its early hours. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., firefighters will compete in a stair-climb with their packs and equipment and demonstrate "jaws of life" rescues and other firefighting tasks at their academy at 6720 Pulaski Highway, said spokesman Kevin Cartwright.

The show draws up to 500 people, and, given its hours, "will still leave time for folks to attend the game," he said.

So much remains unknown — the current playoff schedule is filled with TBAs to be announced, with no specific times or places for the games.

Craig Pfeifer, owner of Maryland Screen Printers, is used to this kind of game-watching and schedule-juggling, given that he frequently is awarded contracts to print licensed championship T-shirts. He and his staff will watch the games and as soon as there's a victory, they'll fire up their printers in East Baltimore and work to get them ready overnight.

"It's part of the fun of it all," Pfeifer said of the last-minute, middle-of-the-night rush.

His company also prints non-trademark shirts, including much orange-and-black gear that doesn't mention the postseason.

Those kinds of shirts likely will remain popular this week, since the Orioles, or any wild-card team, could be eliminated after a single postseason game, quickly dating a "Wild Card Champion" shirt.

"Those kinds of T-shirts don't have a long shelf life," said Martin Greenbaum, a street vendor who sells shirts, hats and other fan merchandise outside Pickles Pub on Orioles game days.

Greenbaum has been weighing whether to place "if win" orders for topical merchandise to sell during the postseason. It's a calculation that involves whether he thinks he'll be able to sell enough of it and how long the Orioles play into the postseason.

He's taken chances before. "That second baseman," he said of Brian Roberts. "After I bought his shirt — actually, I bought a jersey — he got hurt and was out for the season. I'm not doing that again."

When he'll pull the trigger on buying specific merchandise — if the Orioles win their division, for example, or the American League championship — is still up in the air.


"My thinking is," Greenbaum said Tuesday, "I'll wait till this plays out."


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