BALTIMORE — More than 2.4 million fans came to Camden Yards this years to watch the Orioles play, and they saw a playoff team for the second time in three seasons.
An announced crowd of 38,329 showed up Sunday afternoon for the final home game of the regular season, and despite Baltimore falling 3-2 to Boston many of those fans will be getting another chance to catch the team in action.
The Orioles have already clinched a spot in the postseason as winners of the AL East, and they did so at home. They won 50 games in front of the home crowd, which swelled to 2,464,473 fans and set the club's highest total since 2005. And now they'll be hosting the first two games of a division series next week.
"They're just gritty this year," said Josh Fornwalt, a 21-year-old Westminster native who attended Sunday's game with his dad, Brian. "It's not one player that's really just pulling the whole team across the finish line. ... It's bringing it all together. It has been awesome."
The Fornwalts don't have season tickets, but Josh said he went to more than 20 games this year and brought his dad along to several of them. They're planning a playoff visit as well, just like Westminster resident Mark Menefee.
He walked through the gates at Camden Yards excited to watch the Orioles' home finale. But when team representatives picked him at random to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, Menefee said he felt like royalty.
"I never thought I'd ever do that in my life," he said. "That's what you see the president do. ... "This is great. I love baseball. The atmosphere down here all summer ... It's just a great team. Everybody's a hero."
Orange was the color of choice around the ballpark Sunday. Fans wore their brightest apparel, while ushers sported orange T-shirts with "We Won't Stop" on the front, and "Thank You Fans" on the back. Those fans made plenty of noise too, even during a somewhat dull contest.
They roared for Nelson Cruz, who received the team's Most Valuable Oriole award during the pre-game ceremonies. They cheered when several players met selected fans on the field and gave them their jerseys. They let out one more collective "O" during the national anthem, something Orioles manager Buck Showalter has come to enjoy.
"I kind of judge the emotion of the park sometimes with how strong the "O" comes out," Showalter said earlier this weekend. "And I always kind of glance over at the other teams to see if it kind of startles them. It's fun to watch."
Baltimore heads for New York and Toronto to wrap up the regular season, then returns home to get ready for the first round of the playoffs. Showalter and his players seem eager to jump ahead to the end of next week, because they already know what's in store for them when they get back.
"In our locker room anyway, every day is Fan Appreciation Day," Showalter said. "Sunday we'll get on the train, go to New York knowing that we're coming back here to play some more home games. Pretty cool."