Orioles welcomed home for long-awaited playoff date
Fans thrilled to be dressed up with somewhere to go
Shuron Morton and his son, Eliajah Morton, 9 do some Oriole shopping at Camden Yards. (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun / October 6, 2012)
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To come home.
The Orioles have done just that, to fans who are welcoming not just this particular team but the long-awaited return of playoff baseball to Baltimore. The O's host the New York Yankees in the first game of the American League East Division Series at 6:07 p.m. Sunday night at Camden Yards.
"We didn't get to be with them to celebrate Friday night," Don Ferguson, 48, said of the Orioles' Wild Card victory in Texas. "And had they lost, we wouldn't have been with them to thank them for the season and to say goodbye.
"So now I'm just really, really glad we get to see them here," Ferguson said Saturday after picking up two new Orioles sweat shirts at a Camden Yards shop to keep warm in his upper-deck seat Sunday night.
Ferguson and Linda Weaver, 52, of Catonsville, co-workers at Southwest Airlines, were among the fans who spent Saturday in that wonderful in-between state: basking in the day-after glow of an Orioles' victory and reveling in the day-before anticipation of the team's chase of the divisional title.
Weaver thought she might be able to pick up tickets at the box office – there were none to be had – and plans to try her luck online.
"I'd hate to miss out on this," said the lifelong fan, who remembers her parents taking her out of school for Opening Day, where she'd wear a little Orioles uniform her mother had sewn for her.
As both teams worked out on the field and workers prepped the park in advance of the playoff opener, fans readied themselves as well.
"No time to be cheap," Brian Airey said after wincing a bit at the price tag on the Orioles postseason hoodie on the rack at Dick's Sporting Goods in Glen Burnie. Seventy dollars, but then again, it's the one you saw worn in the dugout of Friday night's game. And, after all, it's been 15 years since the Ferndale resident has had an opportunity to wear "Orioles" and "postseason" on his chest.
"I was 12 years old the last time," the longshoreman said on his way to the cash register.
Given that he was wearing a Vladimir Guerrero T-shirt that now seems from a distant past — it was only last year, actually — Airey needed something new for the playoffs. He has tickets for Game 2 on Monday, for himself, his wife and "whoever gives me their first-born child."
It'll be a long and glorious weekend of Baltimore sports, from watching the Ravens and Orioles games on TV on Sunday, and then no work and all play at Camden Yards on Monday, which happens to be the Columbus Day holiday.
"Yep," Airey said, "good times."
Jerry Grahe, 58, decided to pass on the current postseason gear at Dick's and hold out for shirts or hats that, oh, just maybe will declare the O's Division or League champs. When you've been "starved" this long, as Grahe, a federal auditor put it, what's another few days or weeks?
"It's all good," said Grahe, who lives in Greenland Beach in Anne Arundel County. He didn't get tickets but will be watching the divisional series, and beyond, he hopes, on TV. "When you reach this level, it's just all good."
For his son, also named Jerry, the season has been a revelation: So this is what it was like for his elders who regaled him with tales of past Orioles glories that seemed quite the contrast to the Orioles of most of his own era.
"My father and grandfather would talk about the old stuff, so I knew there was another side to the Orioles," said the younger Grahe, 23, a customer support rep for Verizon. "I just didn't know when that would happen."
On a sunny, wind-swept Saturday, joggers, errand runners, balloons at car dealerships all seemed to have gotten the orange-and-black, color-coordination memo. Even Halloween pumpkins, Hooters waitresses, autumnal mums and babies too young to pick out their own attire became inadvertent parts of an Orioles landscape.