Baltimore is a town ready to believe in the Orioles again. There are signs almost everywhere you look.

In the standings, fans have been celebrating the team holding steady in the top tier of the American League, just a few games behind the Tampa Bay Rays. When you tune in Tuesday night to the MLB All-Star Game, two Orioles will be in the field and two more will be coming out of the bullpen. In town, too, a black O’s City Edition cap with its simple script “B” logo is a hot buy – as is a Rutschman or Henderson jersey. It’s hard to question the Orioles’ draft decisions on Sunday after a rock-solid track record that has furnished the No. 1 farm system in baseball.

The rebuild? A success. The “elite” talent pipeline that Mike Elias talked about when he was hired? Established. Faith? Building by the day.

But there’s one thing fans want to believe in more than anything, something the Orioles and state officials could assuage with a timely announcement: that the team is staying put in Camden Yards.

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The last few years, the Orioles have asked for a heck of a lot of trust. But there might be no greater ask for a town that once lost a pro team in the middle of the night than to believe a long-term stadium lease is going to get done soon. Since the Orioles declined a five-year option in February, state officials and team ownership have said there’s no reason to worry – that the team is in it for the long haul.

Still, anxiety has to be bubbling at baseball’s All-Star break with no deal announced. Who put that deadline in place, anyway?

Owner John Angelos himself.

“I’d love to have that [lease] as an All-Star break gift for everybody, really, in the community,” he said in February, from spring training in Sarasota, Florida.

July must have seemed so far in the future back then. But we’d love to see him back those words.

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No one is suggesting such a deal is straightforward or simple. A new governor took office this year and outfitted the Maryland Stadium Authority with new officials who have gotten up to speed in the last few months. There is a lot to sort through, including if the terms of a 30-year-old lease agreement meet the needs of all parties today.

Angelos hasn’t hidden his desire to make Camden Yards more like Atlanta’s Truist Park’s “live, work, play” model for more year-round revenue driving. It’s also worth wondering how the Ravens’ recent lease agreement at M&T Bank Stadium, under which they pay for facilities upkeep but don’t pay rent, will influence a new Orioles deal — for the last 30 years, the Orioles’ rent payment has been tied to a percentage of team revenue.

Baltimore would much rather have the Orioles in place for more than five years anyway, so a longer deal is probably worth the wait, even if it takes into the last year of the current lease (which expires Dec. 31).

But these issues have been talking points for years. We should be nearing an endpoint, if Angelos’ own words are anything to go by. And fans deserve to know, definitively, that the ground isn’t shifting under their feet.

The idea that Marylanders are ready to make a down payment on their faith in the Orioles is not abstract: The moment the franchise ties down its future long term to Baltimore, it will be eligible to receive $600 million in public funds to upgrade the distinguished but aging Oriole Park facilities. The scoreboard and sound system could use a boost, for one thing, and while the stadium has tremendous bone structure that has made it one of baseball’s classic parks, it could probably go for some polish.

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While we wait, fans are making their way back to the ballpark. Attendance is up to nearly 21,000 per game, some 24% higher than through this point last season. Celebratory receptions for Jordan Westburg and Colton Cowser graduating to the big leagues show how invested the fan base continues to be in the nuts and bolts of what the Orioles have built over the last few years.

Building infrastructure and now winning games have earned them credit after these last few trying seasons, but anxieties remain. The biggest of all have to do with ownership, questions that Angelos has addressed at one point or another:

Will Angelos commit to extending these homegrown stars and keeping the contention window open? “We plan to keep moving the payroll up,” he has said.

Will the Orioles make substantial upgrades that help them win now ahead of the August trade deadline? “I anticipate we’re going to invest more: this year, next year,” he has said (and Elias said himself the Orioles will be buyers this summer).

Are Elias and Brandon Hyde, huge figures in the rebuild, going to remain under contract in the coming years to see this thing out? “We are all fully vested,” Angelos has said. “We’re not going anywhere, and nobody’s a short-timer. Nobody’s expiring in a year or two years or anything like that.”

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Some of those questions will require patience to see if the Orioles can deliver. But the stadium lease can be resolved sooner rather than later — plucked from the list of concerns and trumpeted as proof that these words have meaning.

There are already a lot of people who are ready to believe.

kyle.goon@thebaltimorebanner.com

Kyle joined The Baltimore Banner in 2023 as a sports columnist. He previously covered the L.A. Lakers for The Orange County Register and myriad sports at The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s a Mt. Hebron High and University of Maryland alum. 

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