MLB Opening Day 2024: Opening Day in Baltimore marks a momentous celebration of a new day

By | March 29, 2024

BALTIMORE – The orange wave of 45,000 people rose in unison before a pitch was even thrown, celebrating the arrival of a wry, bespectacled, 74-year-old billionaire.

Optimism is a bizarre beast.

Opening Day 2024 at Camden Yards was more than a celebration; it was a coronation, a reminder of a glorious past and a glimpse of an exciting future. For a franchise that has been a punchline for most of the 21st century, an organization floundering in disarray, Thursday afternoon’s unfettered positivity was another universe.

Under overcast skies in early spring, the defending AL East champion Orioles crushed the visiting Los Angeles Angels by a score of 11 to 3. The crown jewel of Baltimore’s offseason, 2021 NL Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes, delivered an 11-strikeout masterpiece . Face of the franchise Adley Rutschman had two hits and two RBI. Franchise veterans Anthony Santander and Cedric Mullins both homered. It looked like 2012, sounded like 1983 and felt like 1966.

But the match itself was almost secondary on this day. The pregame ceremonies, full of their attendant pomp and pageantry, carried more weight and buzz than usual. Some of that was simply the result of a 101-win team with baseball’s best system returning home to a stadium full of raucous fans. But the added positivity was also due to the presence of the aforementioned billionaire: David Rubenstein, the newly controlling owner of the Baltimore Orioles.

Rubenstein, 74, was formally introduced Thursday morning, less than 24 hours after the club announced that his ownership group had been unanimously approved by MLB’s other 29 owners. When his name was called during the pregame introductions, the sold-out crowd responded with a standing ovation. The crowd cheered again as Rubenstein walked to the mound to deliver the ball for the first pitch to Aubree Singletary, the daughter of a city postal worker. The symbolism was clear, as Rubenstein, who grew up in northwest Baltimore, is the son of a city postmaster.

“I really want to give back to Baltimore in some small way,” said the man who bought the club for $1.725 billion. “My expression of appreciation for all that Baltimore has done for me and my family over the years. So I grew up here. I was trained here. My parents grew up here. They received education here. My parents are buried here. And I will be buried here. And I really want to say to Baltimore: this is a new day, a new chapter.”

Although news that the private equity magnate and Baltimoron native was set to take over his hometown team had been public for months, Rubenstein’s presence in and around Camden Yards on Thursday marked the dawning of a new day.

Hours before a packed house erupted with a deafening “O” during the national anthem, Rubenstein spoke to the media and gathered guests at a mid-morning news conference. Dressed in a navy blue blazer, un-ironed, pleated khaki pants, navy blue Ugg sneakers, and a black and orange diagonal striped tie with the Oriole bird on the tip, the man who once spent $21.3 million on a copy of the Magna Carta cut a nonchalant and demure figure.

After an introduction by Maryland Governor Wes Moore, Rubenstein spoke to the attendees – including Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, Senator Ben Cardin and Orioles Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr. and Eddie Murray – with balanced optimism.

“I hope what can happen is: the Orioles can … by beautifying the city, by regaining the kind of greatness that it had in 1966, ’70 or ’73, we can win a World Series again. But to do that, we need everyone to work together.”

It was clear to everyone present that they were watching a man who knows how to work a room. Rubenstein spoke for about ten minutes – without notes – discussing a wide range of topics while focusing on the bigger picture. He spontaneously called on Ripken, who is part of the new ownership group, and GM Mike Elias, both unprepared, to make a few comments. Rubenstein also used the past as a harbinger of the future, repeatedly referencing his memories of watching the great Orioles teams sweep through the American League and desiring to return his boyhood club to perennial prominence. He even made a self-deprecating joke about the evils of private equity.

But above all, Rubenstein focused on restoring the connection between his city and his team. The past thirty years of Orioles ownership under Peter Angelos – especially the past five years under his son John – have been tumultuous and bizarre. They oversaw a general decline in the Orioles’ relevance in the Charm City and beyond. Now, it’s been clear from day one that Rubeinstein’s top priority is restoring the Orioles as an institution, a strategy that will likely include upgrades to the outdated but charming-as-always confines of Camden Yards.

Anyone who has donated as much money as Rubenstein has is someone who cares deeply about the concept of legacy, about being remembered for what you leave behind. His purchase of his beloved Orioles – about whom he demonstrated impressive historical knowledge during the MASN broadcast – is a big step in giving back to the city that made him one of the most successful businessmen in America.

But it will take some time for Rubenstein to make his mark on the Orioles. Neither Rome nor Camden Yards were built in a day. And it’s one thing to express your dedication to this franchise; it is something completely different to support that with investments in the selection, in the stadium and in the organization as a whole. Still, it became clear Thursday that the Orioles’ new owner is a serious tactician, a talented communicator and a respected leader. And unlike his immediate predecessor, John Angelos, it is clear why Rubenstein was able to build himself into such a successful businessman.

Before the Orioles took the field, Rubenstein spoke briefly to the players in the clubhouse. Asked to describe the nature of the new owner’s speech, Rutschman, the team’s voice and superstar, responded with just a few words: “positivity and optimism.”

About an hour after the final out, when the stadium was empty and the cheering fans long gone, a ray of sunshine shone through the clouds from behind the home plate stands. The otherwise cheerful afternoon had taken place entirely under a gloomy, grayscale sky. But as the light danced dramatically along the sides of the buildings behind the fence, it created a shimmering glow on a sliver of the Baltimore skyline.

At the end of a new day, a warm glow.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *