Noah Stayton planned to get to Camden Yards early Friday anyway — Opening Day brings the first batting practice of the year, the orange carpet ceremony and the official beginning of spring for some.
But with memories of long delays when the Ravens implemented their new security measures at M&T Bank Stadium, and knowing the Orioles will be breaking in a new procedure at Camden Yards this year, his early arrival is even more important.
Stayton, 29, of Canton, said he worries that fans unfamiliar with the process — every fan must go through a metal detector as part of a new Major League Baseball security policy — could slow entrance into Camden Yards early in the season. Orioles officials have similar concerns but said they believe the process will become routine quickly.
"The process itself really doesn't take much extra time than it would to have your ticket scanned — it really is a matter of seconds," said Greg Bader, the Orioles' vice president of marketing and communications. "The issue, then, becomes if fans are not familiar with the process.
"The first time you go through it might be a little slower. But as the season progresses, it should just essentially turn into something that becomes old habit."
In 2013, months after backpacks were used to carry homemade bombs to the finish line of the Boston Marathon, MLB announced a uniform metal detector policy for its 30 stadiums for the beginning of the 2015 season.
Fifteen teams around baseball opened at home on Sunday and Monday. In Washington, the Nationals said they were pleased with their rollout Monday. An MLB spokesman said the implementation is "going well."
"We have experience from the last couple of years, 2013 and 2014, and we definitely expected there to be an adjustment phase," league spokesman Mike Teevan said. "We expect things to continue to prove to get easier, but we're pleased with how it's gone so far. We think it's an important step to take, and over the course of the year, it'll just get easier and easier."
The Orioles tested new security measures last season — using hand-held metal detectors at select entrances — and received some "good feedback" on what worked and what didn't work, Bader said. Team officials decided for walk-through metal detectors — as many as could fit into each gate — because they believe they're faster.
Bader said initial fan impressions were that the "airport-style" security enhancements would involve removing shoes, jackets, belts and loose change. But only cell phones and keys must come out of your pocket at Camden Yards, he said.
"I think some fans, earlier in the year that were hearing rumors that the security system was being enhanced, and I think they were picturing a long, TSA airport line. In fact, that's not what we're anticipating it will be," Bader said.
The team's bag-check policy, which allows outside food and non-alcoholic drinks that aren't in glass bottles into Camden Yards, will remain the same. Other standing policies include bans on re-entry to games, leaving items at gates and idling cars curbside by the stadium except to drop off or unload guests.
Bags are still subject to the same inspections, but gates A, C, F, and H — located at either end of Eutaw Street, and at the corner of South Paca Street and West Camden Street — will have "express lanes" for guests without bags.
When some fans heard of the new security measures, they feared the same strict procedures implemented by the NFL — and the delays that came with them.
The Boston Marathon bombings also led to a tight revision of the NFL's security policy in 2013. Fans were already subjected to pat-downs and metal detector wand checks before entry, but the league then banned all bags other than small, clear tote bags and clutch purses the size of a hand.
"When the Ravens [took those measures], the amount of time it took to get into the stand increased dramatically," said Corey Gaber, 30. Gaber, Stayton, and Liza Casey, 27, were enjoying Wednesday's game at Bartenders Pub in Canton, and will be at Opening Day on Friday.
Gaber and Stayton said people who weren't familiar with the procedure caused the most backups at entrances early in the Ravens' implementation. Fans who want to arrive even earlier than usual to take in the Opening Day atmosphere and navigate the possible lines at other games can do so.
As has been the tradition on Opening Day for several years, gates will open three hours before the 3:05 p.m. scheduled first pitch. For the other 80 home dates, all gates will open two hours before the game begins. Previously, the Eutaw Street gates opened two hours early, but the rest of the gates opened 30 minutes later.
"We added that extra half hour for all fans to access all entrances as a way to try to mitigate what is often a crush of people at the beginning of when gates open to see batting practice or to get a giveaway item …and spread that out among all the entrance points instead of just consolidating that to Gates A and H," Bader said. "That should help a great deal with wait times at the moment the ballpark opens."
Stayton understands the need for security and said it's hard to increase it without affecting the fan experience.
"There's always a balance between security and having things more relaxed," he said. "It's a tough balance to get right. If something bad were to happen and [extra security] could have stopped it, they would ask why they didn't do it."
Dave and Sue Wollner, a pair of Canton residents who went to O'Donnell Square on Wednesday for a team-sponsored "Operation Orange" event, plan to attend Saturday's game and said they were surprised it took so long for metal detectors to be mandated.
Sue Wollner said they would be prepared for long lines, though Dave Wollner believed they will only be bad on big occasions, like Opening Day and visits from the New York Yankees.
"Regular days will not be a big deal," he said. "When you get 45,000 showing up in two hours, you're going to have to wait."