Each weekend during the season at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the Orioles honor a Birdland Community Hero for going above and beyond to help others.
With the ballpark now empty due to the coronavirus pandemic, they’re taking that program online — and the first set of virtual honorees are enough to fill every seat in the stadium.
The team announced Friday that the first set of Virtual Birdland Heroes was anyone on the front lines as the world deals with COVID-19, from doctors and medical workers to grocery store clerks, postal workers and other essential workers who are keeping the community going in the crisis.
“We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to all of our community members on the front lines of the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic,” senior vice president for community development and communications Jennifer Grondahl said in a statement.
"Now more than ever, it is important that we join together to honor the heroic efforts and sacrifices of these Birdland Community Heroes, who are working tirelessly to keep us safe and healthy in this time of crisis. We can all honor these heroes by continuing to follow the guidelines established by health officials and our elected leaders.”
As part of the announcement, the Orioles Charitable Foundation will donate $5,000 to the Maryland Food Bank on the Orioles’ behalf.
“On behalf of our organization, I wanted to send our sincerest thanks to all of the individuals working on our community’s behalf during the COVID-19 pandemic,” first baseman Chris Davis said in a video message. “We honor you.”
The donation is part of an ongoing effort by the team to reach out to those most affected by the pandemic. Governor Larry Hogan tweeted out a video from Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias commending the response work and urging those who can to stay safe and stay home.
“If we all approach this like we’re part of a team and we all do our part and play our positions, we’ll be able to get through this,” Elias said in the video.
Reliever Richard Bleier has been one of the most active in seeking causes to support. Most recently, he donated money to Velossa Tech Engineering to make 2,500 protective visors for South Florida hospitals and put out a call for materials to help facilitate that order.
Earlier this month, Bleier donated meals to the Wellington Regional Medical Center emergency room staff in South Florida.
Manager Brandon Hyde, who has remained in the Sarasota area with his family since camp ended abruptly last month, donated meals to front-line health care workers at the Sarasota Memorial Hospital. Several other initiatives are underway for next week, too.
On Thursday, Reliever David Hess and his wife, Devin, also put out a call for donations for the Student Support Network’s grocery gift card drive to support Baltimore County students in need.
Additionally, the organization has shifted some of its philanthropic efforts to causes that support pandemic relief. Digital broadcasts during the league’s shutdown have raised money for the Maryland Food Bank, while their website also aims to bring visibility to UEmpower of Maryland, MedStar Health, The American Red Cross Greater Chesapeake Region, Art with a Heart, Baltimore City Meal Distribution, Living Classrooms, Bedtime in a Box, and Share Baby.