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Orioles lay off, furlough nearly 50 staff members as impact of coronavirus pandemic continues

The Orioles have laid off or furloughed 46 employees as a result of the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic, according to two team sources with direct knowledge of the situation.

The team terminated 11 employees, three of them being full-time employees, and furloughed 35 others, with the temporary and permanent cuts affecting all organizational departments and employees both in Baltimore and at the team’s spring training site in Sarasota, Florida, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media about the personnel situation. The plan is for the furloughed employees to be brought back Feb. 1, weeks before the club will begin 2021 spring training.

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Although they closed their business offices in March, the Orioles continued to pay their full-time and part-time staff members through the season. The organization has discussed these potential cuts for months, one source said, but wanted to support its staff as long as possible before making what it considers a future-focused decision.

The pandemic shortened the Orioles' 2020 season to 60 games and kept fans out of Camden Yards, muddying the club’s financial picture. Not helping matters is the remaining lack of clarity on the structure of the 2021 season and whether fans will be able to attend regular-season games next year. About 11,500 tickets have been sold to each game of the National League Championship Series and World Series in Arlington, Texas, about a fourth of Globe Life Field’s capacity.

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Several Major League Baseball teams and other professional sports franchises have made similar cuts this year because of financial troubles caused by the pandemic. The Atlanta Braves, who lead the Los Angeles Dodgers 2-0 in the best-of-seven NLCS, laid off an unspecified number of employees two weeks before the start of the postseason, citing “a re-organization of full-time staff, spread across all areas of the organization including our baseball, business, real estate development and minor league operations.”

In preparation for a 2021 season that they hope will feature fans, the Orioles are selling Birdland Memberships, their subscription-style season-ticket plans, and having meetings focused on preparing Oriole Park to host fans next year.

During his end-of-the-year media session last month, executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias, the head of the Orioles' baseball operations department, said the organization would experience “a very uncertain offseason from a number of angles.”

“Outside of baseball, businesses in general do a lot of planning, budgeting,” Elias said. “Baseball teams do a lot of planning, looking ahead, and just all of that is just totally out of the window because of this event that came in and turned the world upside down.”

Baltimore Sun reporter Jon Meoli contributed to this article.

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