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Orioles tickets for ALDS already scarce

Jennifer Regester knew she was coming no matter what.

Shortly after the Orioles clinched a spot in the American League Division Series, she bought plane tickets to Baltimore for her and her 18-year-old daughter, Taylor Twofeathers — from their home in Bozeman, Mont.

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Regester made the $1,700 splurge without any guarantee she'd be able to purchase playoff seats from her favorite baseball club.

"Is that totally crazy?" the Baltimore County native asked.

Maybe, but Regester was hardly alone in the rush to snap up tickets for the impending ALDS, which begins Thursday at Camden Yards. She actually ended up one of the lucky ones — fewer than half who registered for a playoff ticket lottery won the right to purchase seats for the initial best-of-five series.

Regester was among those who received a coveted purchase code. If she hadn't, she would've paid double or triple price to obtain tickets on the secondary market.

In all, the Orioles say, postseason tickets are far scarcer than they were at the same stage in 2012.

This year's season-ticket holders got first crack at playoff seats for the first, second and fifth games of the ALDS. (The Orioles would play the other two games on the road.) Then came fans who put down deposits on 2015 season-ticket plans.

Club officials said many more people took advantage of those options than in 2012, when the Orioles returned to the playoffs for the first time in 15 years.

The lucky winners among 120,000 fans who signed up for the club's divisional round lottery will get their chance to buy tickets Saturday at 10 a.m. Then on Monday morning, a smattering of tickets — many fewer than in 2012, according to the Orioles — will become available in an online sale to the general public.

"People who log on right at 10 a.m. will probably get something, but no guarantee of which game or which seat," club spokesman Greg Bader said.

If the Orioles make it past the division round, the club would repeat the same process for the American League Championship Series and World Series, with season-ticket buyers getting the first chance at seats, followed by lottery winners and then the general public.

If fans are shut out in the club's official sales, they can turn to the secondary ticket market, where Game 1 prices on StubHub.com ranged Friday from $88 for standing-room only tickets to more than $1,300 for field-level box seats.

As of early Friday, Orioles playoff tickets were selling for an average of $267, second-highest of all potential playoff teams behind the Washington Nationals at $280, according to TiqIQ.com, a New York-based company that analyzes the secondary market.

Tickets for Games 1 and 2 were about 33 percent more expensive than tickets for the same games in 2012.

"I think knowing they are assured two home games as well as being one of the best teams in the league record-wise, helps boost enthusiasm and price on resale market," said Chris Matcovich, vice president of data for TiqIQ.

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Some fans even put their Orioles lottery codes — without any guarantee of specific seats — for sale on eBay.

Bader attributed the relative scarcity of tickets to the fan base's deeper faith in the Orioles, who have now posted three consecutive winning seasons and made the playoffs twice in three years. What seemed a potential fluke in 2012 now feels like the status quo. So the idea of investing in 2015 tickets as the price for securing playoff seats doesn't seem like much of a risk.

"For a long time, people were a little less willing to commit," Bader said. "I think people are expressing their satisfaction with the direction of our on- and off-field product."

Though the club never shares season-ticket data, he said the base of season holders is significantly greater than it was two years ago. The Orioles drew 2,464,473 to Camden Yards this year, their best home attendance since 2005.

Fans generally agreed they're happy to drop cash on the Orioles right now, with a likable team seeking to make a deep postseason push under manager Buck Showalter.

"Yes, I do truly believe this team is doing very well," said James Harris, 36, of Parkville. "Buck is a major part for our success. I think the biggest piece that has put us over the top is [pitching coach] Dave Wallace, as our pitching has been amazing since the end of May. Reminds me of the pitching staffs the O's had back in the late '70s and early '80s."

Harris secured his playoff seats — two at $30 apiece for Game 1 and two at $45 apiece for a possible Game 5 — by placing a deposit on a 13-game plan for next season.

He didn't buy season tickets for this year, in part because of a busy personal schedule, but said it was no stretch to imagine going to a full slate next year. In fact, he's so excited about the Orioles he also bought tickets for Game 2 of the ALDS on Seatgeek.com for $156 apiece.

The season ticket sales have even roped in some of the greatest skeptics from the club's previous era of losing. Terry Cook of Parkville eats and breathes the Orioles but became so fed up a few years ago that he helped found a movement of disgruntled fans known as "Occupy Eutaw Street." They directed their anger at owner Peter Angelos, with Cook often wearing a T-shirt that read "Stop lying to us, Peter" across the back.

Last week, however, Cook reluctantly put a deposit on 2015 seats.

"I would say that my skepticism is still there in regards to the owner, but I am supremely happy with the direction of the team as run by Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter," he said. "I would be at a lot of games next year anyway, but the plan I bought was only to get playoff tickets."

For Regester, living 2,000 miles away, season tickets weren't an option. But she and her daughter, who was born in Baltimore and left with the family when she was 5 months old, weren't about to miss the playoffs. They normally follow the Orioles on Facebook or satellite radio. They went to see the club play in Phoenix last season, and Twofeathers flipped an orange baseball into the visiting dugout, where numerous players signed it.

The teenager was only sorry she wasn't at Camden Yards to take a pie in the face from Adam Jones as the Orioles celebrated clinching the AL East last week. And what if they make the World Series?

"If the World Series is in the future and going to happen, I will do everything I can to get her there," Regester said.

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