Orioles’ 2023 attendance up 24% compared with last year at same point; MLB attendance up 6%

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Michele and Dave Cookson’s first date was almost an Orioles game. He asked her out to one — but she opted to go to a Coldplay concert instead.

Eighteen years later, their umpteen-hundredth date was, however, an Orioles game last week, and there are more on the way. The season ticket-holding couple from Woodberry has attended over 250 games together and they are now visiting Camden Yards more than they did during the team’s recent rebuild.


They attended about 15 games a year during the Orioles’ down seasons, but now — with the team on the other side of a long rebuild — that figure has already jumped to 30. The Orioles last reached the playoffs in 2016.

“It was painful, some of those rebuild years, to stay here and watch the games,” Michele said last week, donning recently acquired City Connect gear.


That hasn’t been the case this season as Baltimore (35-21), despite a listless homestand this past week, currently has the third-best record in MLB. Attendance has reflected the improved performance from both this season and last, when the Orioles exceeded expectations and finished with a winning record.

Fans cheer as Orioles shortstop Jorge Mateo, right, high-fives a coach in the dugout after scoring a run during Wednesday's game against the Guardians at Camden Yards. The team's average announced attendance through 29 games last year was 16,305. This season, it's up to 20,138, a 24% increase as fans have returned to the ballpark after enduring a grueling rebuild.

Compared with the first two months of last season, when they struggled out of the gate, the Orioles have seen a 24% increase in attendance. Through 29 games in 2022, the team’s average announced attendance was 16,305; this year, that same number has been 20,138.

“We want to be there for the big moments,” Dave said.

The Orioles still trail most MLB teams, ranking 20th in attendance this year, but that’s an improvement over recent years. The last time the Orioles finished a season ranked 20th or better of MLB’s 30 teams in attendance was in 2016.

As fans Mike McCullough and Eric Levenson drove to a game from Baltimore County last week, they discussed one of the Orioles’ additions from last year — the ascendant Yennier Cano, who has emerged as one of the game’s top relievers.

They’re longtime fans who often watch on TV, but when the team is competitive night in and night out and boasts All-Star caliber players, attending games becomes more attractive. McCullough, who wore an Adley-Gunnar ’22 shirt in honor of two of the Orioles’ young stars, plans to go to double-digit games this year, something he hasn’t done in a while.

“It’s definitely more of a topic now. You go out of your way a little bit more now to make plans,” he said.

Enduring the Orioles’ rebuild — from 2018 to 2021 when Baltimore won fewer than one-third of its games — has made the recent success sweeter, Levenson said.


“It’s gratifying to watch the process,” he said. “And the process is painful at times, but I think it’s more meaningful when you watch it and you know the full story.”

Young fans look for autographs from players before an Orioles game against the Guardians on Monday at Camden Yards.

As of last week, attendance across MLB was up 6% as compared with last year at the same point. McCullough pointed to rule changes — like the pitch clock, which has sped games up by nearly 30 minutes — as making the game more enjoyable for fans.

Orioles relief pitcher Bryan Baker has noticed the increased attendance. And he said he appreciates, too, when he hears the familiar chorus of “O” during the national anthem, even on the road.

“Anytime there’s more O’s fans in the seats here, it’s a huge help to us,” he said. “It helps us win ballgames and we’ll hopefully bring more people here the more we win.”

Said outfielder Ryan McKenna last week: “I think the biggest driver of people wanting to view the games in-person is winning, so we’ve been doing that this year and we’re going to continue to do that and play the same way we have all year.”

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Coming off a homestand in which they dropped two series in a row for the first time this year, the Orioles will seek to right the ship with a six-game road trip. When they get back, fans — many of whom endured a rough rebuild — will be there at Camden Yards to greet them.


Dave Cookson became an Orioles fan in 1995 after he moved to Baltimore and witnessed Cal Ripken Jr. set his consecutive games record. Since then, Cookson has withstood many years of Orioles’ struggles, but he’s enjoying the team’s current trajectory. Orioles fans, he said, have a “lot of character.”

“Anybody can be a Yankees fan, a Red Sox fan,” he said. “I think it takes a lot of imagination and creativity to be an Orioles fan.”

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