As members of the Orioles clubhouse considered the optics around the newly minted homer hose last month, gauging the reaction of some fans that found the non-player-endorsed “dong bong” nickname a little too edgy for their tastes, left-hander Cole Irvin broke through the noise.

He pointed out how the homer hose was in reference, purely, to the nostalgic act of drinking out of a garden hose after playing outside on a warm summer day. It had nothing to do with chugging liquids of any variety, G-rated or beyond. And he was sure, at some point soon, the Orioles’ home run celebration and other on-field antics would be embraced wholeheartedly.

“Don’t worry,” Irvin called out, “before long they’re going to have a splash zone and everybody is going to love it.”

It was a joke. But it left a seed in the left-hander’s mind that grew as he talked with left-hander Keegan Akin and catcher James McCann. What if the Orioles actually had a splash zone? And when Baltimore knocked extra-base hits and the players did the sprinkler celebration toward the dugout, a section of fans had the chance to be involved, too?

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“It turned into this conversation, like, that would be kind of cool, to celebrate with the fans,” McCann said. “And then it got taken to the marketing team, and don’t ya know, here we are in May with a Bird Bath splash zone.”

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The Orioles debuted the Bird Bath in Section 86, near the bullpens at Camden Yards, on Friday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s an idea that felt like “a winner” as soon as she heard it from Orioles players, said Jennifer Grondahl, the Orioles’ senior vice president of community development and communications.

The feeling was backed up by an immediate fan response. Within the first 48 hours after the left-field Bird Bath tickets went on sale, over 2,000 were purchased. The team sold out the section for the three-game weekend series against the Pirates, although there are still some tickets available for next week when the Los Angeles Angels arrive.

All of Baltimore’s celebrations this year are water-focused. For singles, they turn on the faucet. For doubles and triples, they do a sprinkler movement with their arm. And for homers, they drink from the hose in the dugout.

For $20, Orioles fans have the chance to celebrate like the players on the field. When Baltimore hits a double, triple or home run, Mr. Splash — the team’s new “Chief Hydration Officer,” Grondahl said — will spray a hose at fans in the seats.

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“Our players talk about, we feed off the energy,” Grondahl said. “We want the fans to come here and help the team win.”

Mr. Splash may not be the same person each night. Grondahl said he’s more of a revolving character, and there are already alternate iterations being discussed. The Bird Bath may have tweaks throughout the season, too, as the operations staff receives feedback and fine-tunes the section.

"Mr. Splash" sprays fans in section 86 with a garden hose as part of the Orioles' Bird Bath promotion, which they debuted in a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Camden Yards on Friday, May 12. The Orioles won the first game of the 3-game series, 6-3. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

In all of McCann’s years in the major leagues, he said he’s never been part of a fan-focused marketing campaign. He noted how with social media, he can interact with fans more than the 32-year-old would have at the onset of his career.

But what he, Irvin and others brought to Camden Yards is another level entirely.

“Taking this step further, where it’s like, we’re going to interact with fans in a game, let them be part of something we’ve grown so much to enjoy. I think it’s a big thing,” McCann said. “I think it’s a special thing that hopefully fans just absolutely eat up.”

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At least one fan did. Ryan Blake, a 28-year-old living in Rockville, bought tickets for the Bird Bath as soon as he saw they were on sale. He didn’t manage to find goggles, but brought in a pair of blow-up water wings to put on his arms as an additional prop.

“I was ready, excited, happy to do it,” Blake said. “Ready to get wet. What can I say?”

The Bird Bath was sprayed with a hose for the first time in the fifth inning, when outfielder Cedric Mullins tripled into the right-center field gap. In a message, Blake wrote that the experience was “unbelievably lit.”

As part of the marketing campaign, the Orioles will feature the section on the video board at Camden Yards and during Mid-Atlantic Sports Network broadcasts of games. McCann called it “genius” — perhaps a pat on his own back, along with Irvin’s. But it’s deserved praise.

“Some of the greatest ideas, in my experience,” Grondahl said, “come from the most unusual places.”

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This one, from inside the Orioles clubhouse itself, certainly counts.

andy.kostka@thebaltimorebanner.com

Andy Kostka is an Orioles beat writer for The Baltimore Banner. He previously covered the Orioles for The Baltimore Sun. Kostka graduated from the University of Maryland and grew up in Rockville.

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