After 18 ½ months away, fans will reenter the gates of Camden Yards for Thursday afternoon’s Orioles home opener against the Boston Red Sox.
Much has changed since Baltimore last played a home game with fans in attendance. The coronavirus pandemic limited the season to 60 games and caused teams across the league to play in empty ballparks.
The next step toward normalcy comes Thursday. Here’s what you need to know if you plan to be back at the ballpark.
How many fans are attending?
At least to begin the year, the Orioles are limiting attendance to about 11,000, or 25% of the ballpark’s capacity. For the home opener, tickets were exclusively available to those with Birdland Memberships, the club’s subscription-based, season-ticket program.
Gates will open an hour before first pitch at 2:05 p.m., which is after the team will conclude batting practice. Pregame ceremonies are scheduled to start at 2:30 p.m.
What safety measures are being taken?
The club is requiring masks to be worn at all times unless are fans are actively eating or drinking while in their ticketed seats, which will be assigned in pods to allow for social distancing between groups. Pods are available in groups of two, four and six.
Camden Yards will be entirely cashless this season. As a result, the team is providing two “Reverse” ATMs, one each on the lower concourse and upper concourse, that allow fans to input cash and receive cards that can be used at food and merchandise stands.
Among other efforts to follow health and safety guidelines, fans can skip concession lines by ordering on mobile using the MLB Ballpark App or QR codes throughout the stadium. Tickets will also be exclusively digital this season, with fans required to show them on their mobile devices for entry.
Can I bring my own food into the ballpark?
Unlike previous years, the team isn’t allowing fans to bring their own food or beverages into Camden Yards. In fact, no bags will be allowed at all, with the exception of medically necessary and nursery bags.
Do I need to be vaccinated for COVID-19 to attend?
The Orioles are not requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test for COVID-19 for admittance. However, they ask that fans who aren’t feeling well don’t attend.
The team will promote vaccinations to fans throughout the season, and some members of the team have already been vaccinated themselves.
How’s the team this year?
The Orioles got off to a surprising 3-0 start by sweeping the Red Sox at Fenway Park before dropping a road series to the New York Yankees. But it’s important to remember the organization is still in a rebuild, and the 2019 team started the season 4-1 and went on to lose 108 games.
Right-hander Dean Kremer, outfielder Ryan Mountcastle and left-hander Bruce Zimmermann — an Ellicott City native — made their debuts in 2020 and will get to be on the field in front of home fans in the majors for the first time Thursday. The same is true of this year’s debutants, outfielder Ryan McKenna and Rule 5 picks Tyler Wells and Mac Sceroler.
More prospects are on the way, and each arrival makes the Orioles’ next competitive team look that much closer.
Matt Harvey, who was the starting pitcher for the National League in the 2013 All-Star Game and made two starts for the New York Mets in the 2015 World Series, will make his second start for Baltimore. Former Orioles prospect Eduardo Rodríguez starts for Boston.
Who’s pitching ceremoniously?
A current mayor and a former one. Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, who was the mayor of Boston before taking his current position in President Joe Biden’s cabinet last month, will both throw out the first pitch, the team said, “in a moment of unity between our two cities as we celebrate the long-awaited return of fans to our ballpark.”
Scott, a lifelong Baltimorean, has been a vocal supporter of the Orioles, going so far as to advocate publicly for the team to host the 2021 All-Star Game.
What about the national anthem?
Zadia, a musician born and raised in West Baltimore, will sing the national anthem from the Center Field Roof Deck. At the end of her performance, the 104th Fighter Squadron of the Maryland Air National Guard 175th Wing will have a flyover.
Who’s the 10th Man?
You. The club’s 10th Man tradition annually recognizes one fan each Opening Day, but going forward, the honor will be “Mo Gaba’s Fan of the Year,” recognizing the 14-year-old superfan who died of cancer shortly after his election to the Orioles Hall of Fame. Gaba was recognized as the 2020 10th Man days after his death.
This season, Mo Gaba’s Fan of the Year will be all Oriole fans “in recognition of their unwavering support that fuels the team each and every day,” the team said. The crowd will all have the honor of shouting “Play Ball!” before the first pitch.
In addition to recognizing front-line workers, the club will honor Dave Seel, Board President of the Baltimore Restaurant Relief Fund, as the Birdland Community Hero.
Are there any changes at Oriole Park this year?
The stadium features two new restaurants on the lower level concourse: Charm City Diner and Vida Taco Bar.
Fans will also now have a chance to interact with the Oriole Bird at The Bird’s Nest on the Center Field Roof Deck. Fans can reserve a time slot for a photo with the hall of fame mascot at Orioles.com/Bird, with all proceeds benefiting the Orioles Charitable Foundation.
What if I’m not going to the game?
The Orioles are bringing back their O’s At Home initiative, an effort to give fans the sense of being at Camden Yards that will bring the Hot Dog Race, Crab Shuffle and other in-ballpark experiences into your home through the team’s television and radio broadcasts.
Thursday, 3:05 p.m.
TV: MASN Radio: 105.7 FM