Orioles continue to see business increase in wake of surprising 2012

For the first time in more than a decade, Baltimore sports fans wished for orange more than purple as they made their Christmas lists for Robbie Davis Jr.'s memorabilia shop in Timonium.

In the wake of the Orioles' first winning season and first playoff appearance since 1997, interest in the club has remained high throughout the holiday shopping season.

"It totally has," said Davis, owner of Robbie's First Base, which has peddled Baltimore memorabilia since 1989. "To the point where Ravens stuff has taken a back seat to it."

From season tickets to apparel to memorabilia, everything Orioles has sold well since the club's startling run ended in Yankee Stadium on Oct. 12.

"Things continue to be very strong," Orioles spokesman Greg Bader said. "We're very pleased with what the response has been and really was, starting with the postseason sales."

Though Bader said it's too early to have a grip on possible attendance for 2013, he said the club has seen a noticeable uptick in deposits for 2013 season-ticket plans, especially from new customers.

A "holiday five-pack" promotion, which included tickets to Opening Day and four other games, sold out in two days compared to several weeks in past seasons. More than 2,500 people have put in pre-sale orders for a "Buckle Up" video recounting the 2012 season, though it won't be available until late January.

The Orioles are also a stronger presence in national retail than they have been in years.

Since Black Friday, sales of Orioles gear are up 136 percent compared to the same dates last year, and up more than 300 percent compared to the same dates in 2010, according to, one of the country's largest online retailers of officially licensed sports merchandise.

Women's and kids' merchandise are both up more than 200 percent compared to 2011 holiday sales.

That's after the club's merchandise saw an 88 percent jump from 2011 during the regular season and was among the top sellers from Major League Baseball in September and October.

The club's share of the baseball merchandise market increased substantially from 2011 to 2012, according to SportsOneSource, a Charlotte-based company that analyzes the sporting goods industry.

From August to October, the Orioles accounted for 2.89 percent of the sport's U.S. retail sales, which ranked eighth among MLB clubs. The Orioles accounted for only .47 percent of the baseball retail market during the same period last year, which ranked 26thin MLB.

The numbers were even better for November, when the Orioles ranked sixth with a 3.38 percent share of the market. They ranked 20th in November 2011.

The club's economic story is a familiar one, SportsOneSource analyst Matt Powell said.

"Typically the most important catalyst is a team winning or making the playoffs after years of failure," he said.

Longtime fans say they're likely to attend more games in 2013 than they have in some time. The Orioles saw a boost in late-season sales in 2012 and drew more than 2 million fans for the first time since 2007. But the attendance payoffs for surprise seasons often lag a year.

Bader was reluctant to make specific predictions, with single-game tickets not even available until Jan. 19. But he allowed: "I think we would be expecting an increase in season ticket sales."

That increase will come from people such as Mark Costello, an Orioles fan who works downtown at University of Maryland Medical Center. Inspired by last season, Costello and seven friends have decided to split two 81-game ticket packages for 2013.

"It's been a long time since I've said this," he said. "But is it April yet?"

Costello is also considering a trip to Sarasota for his first glimpse of the club's spring training facility. Officials from the club's Florida home said they're not yet sure what kind of tourism bump they might see based on the 2012 performance.

"Certainly, people down here are excited in general because they had such a great year," said Nicole Rissler, director of sports for the Sarasota Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Other existing season-ticket holders said they'll likely increase their orders for next season when renewal forms arrive in early January.

"I use many of the tickets for client entertainment, and when the Orioles were struggling it was difficult to even give them away," said Mark Eisner of Sykesville, a season-ticket holder since 1984. "Last year, client interest ticked upward, but the interest of my own family increased even more. Bowing to pressure from my kids, our plan renewal this year likely will entail more seats and more games."

There's a question many fans are probably asking: Will new revenue generated by better performance allow the team to spend more on players?

"It's hard to tell," Bader said. "The payroll is going to go up significantly, even without adding new players, just based on our existing players reaching arbitration. We're hoping to be able to drive revenues, but it's a little early to say. … We're optimistic."

At Robbie's First Base, Davis said there's no question the club's success made his holiday season more cheerful. He has never experienced a year when both the Orioles and Ravens were good.

In the last month, he said, the shop has probably sold three-dozen autographed balls each for Orioles stars such as Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters.

"We would sell stuff from guys like that anyway, but not like this," Davis said. "What's really different this year is that people also want stuff from J.J. Hardy or Nate McLouth. You know, nobody was buying balls autographed by Chris Davis in April. Now, people are calling me up and asking if I have them."