December isn't the busiest month of the year at Oriole Park. Parking spaces are no problem. There's always an empty box seat. It's even possible to be first in line at Boog's Barbecue.
But the crowds return tonight, if only briefly. The occasion is the Orioles' second annual "Moonlight Madness," a worthy event for baseball fans interested in clubhouse tours, autograph sessions and -- not to be forgotten -- securing a place in line when the team begins selling tickets for 1994 home games.
Showing up at the ballpark today -- ticket windows will be open 4 p.m. until midnight -- doesn't guarantee that fans will pick up prime seats to the games of their choice.
Already, many prime seats are gone. Before the box office opens today, the Orioles have sold 27,500 season tickets. That accounts for more than half of the seating capacity at Oriole Park, which is 48,079.
The Orioles also gave first crack at tickets to individual games to season-ticket subscribers and fans on their lengthy season-ticket waiting list. They ordered another 70,000 seats, according to team officials.
Not that the team's ticket inventory has been seriously gutted. When the box office opens today, the Orioles will have about 1.5 million tickets to sell. More than 100,000 sold last year during the inaugural Moonlight Madness weekend, including sales on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. With demand for tickets still high, the Orioles figure to do at least as well for this year's event. The box office will be open through Sunday.
Tickets also go on sale today at more than 40 Ticketmaster outlets, including 23 Hecht stores, and by telephone from PhoneCharge at 410-481-SEAT.
The Orioles have scheduled a full slate of activities at the ballpark, many inside the heated, club-level lounge. They include an autograph session by Orioles designated hitter Harold Baines, a raffle of Orioles memorabilia and questions-and-answer sessions with, among others, Orioles assistant general manager Doug Melvin and ESPN baseball analyst Peter Gammons.