We cannot let the Arizona Diamondbacks beat us this weekend.

No, this is not strictly about baseball, although the Baltimore Orioles certainly need to be at their best against the defending National League champs in their three-game series starting Friday.

But it is about who is at the ballpark. Specifically, all of us.

The Diamondbacks may be behind in their quest to return to the World Series this year, but they’re leading the major leagues in one of the most impressive categories. Through 19 home contests, they’ve seen an average of 12,465 more fans per game than last season, according to Baseball Reference, a nearly 63% boost.

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By the same available data, the Orioles are doing well: The average attendance is 24,032 per game at Camden Yards, about 4,269 more than through 19 games last season. When school lets out and as more division rivals and opposing superstars come to town, we know that number is going to tick upward.

But that raises a good question. Why wait?

As of this writing, the Orioles are pacing the American League with a 24-12 record with the fourth-youngest lineup (the average age of their hitters is 27) in baseball. They have the most homers (57), and their pitching staff is top-five in batting average allowed (.219) and WHIP (1.11). Three of their home wins have been walk-offs; two have been shutouts.

There’s a lot to like about these Orioles, but while the per-game attendance increase is the fourth-best in baseball, Baltimore is still chasing the top spot. The recent slate of games came against the fanbases we’re trailing: No. 2 Washington (5,615) and No. 3 Cincinnati (5,252) — young, ascendant ballclubs with blossoming stars. But the Orioles have already arrived, at the top tier of the MLB again after winning 101 games last season.

It’s worth understanding the constraints, of course: Ticket prices are rising, school is still in session, there has been just one AL East series so far. But trusting Marylanders are reasonable people who will listen to a good case, here are five reasons you should absolutely, positively go to the ballpark this weekend:

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Gunnar Henderson points to the sky as he rounds the bases after homering in the first inning against the New York Yankees. (Ulysses Muñoz)

1. The Orioles are bashing the ball

When Gunnar Henderson is up to bat, it is highly suggested that you position yourself in the flag court. All but one of the 22-year-old shortstop’s home runs at Camden Yards have been hit to right field or right center, and your best bet seems to be the porch just off of Eutaw Street.

Homers may be a little streaky, but across the board, the Orioles are hitting the ball hard. They’re third in hard-hit ball percentage this season (43.9%) and second in barrel rate (9.9%). Henderson is at the top of the league in average exit velocity (94.8 mph, 99th percentile), seeing the ball well and turning on it hard, but guys like Colton Cowser and Jordan Westburg are also top performers in these advanced metrics.

Even besides the long ball, the Orioles have been incredible hitters this season. Adley Rutschman (.318 batting average) is on a six-game hitting streak and has a hit in 17 of his last 18 games. If you go to a game, you’re going to see the ball jump off the bat that you won’t see from most MLB teams.

Orioles starter Corbin Burnes pitches against the Yankees on May 1, 2024, at Camden Yards.
Orioles starter Corbin Burnes pitches against the Yankees on May 1. (Ulysses Muñoz)

2. The starting pitchers are incredibly resilient.

Was it just two weeks ago when I was fretting about the Orioles’ pitching staff? They immediately turned around and delivered a week of the best starts you could reasonably hope for. While I still harbor some long-term concerns about Baltimore’s pitching, this is a rare instance in which it feels OK to be wrong.

Corbin Burnes has been as good as advertised, while Kyle Bradish has only allowed two earned runs in two starts back from injury. Neither is scheduled to pitch against the Diamondbacks, but the back end of the rotation is nothing to sneeze at, either. Cole Irvin was ostensibly a stopgap starter who has a 2.86 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP. John Means would be the comeback story of the staff if not for Bradish. Dean Kremer has been solid, allowing just four earned runs over his last three starts.

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Injuries to Grayson Rodriguez and Tyler Wells make it seem like the Orioles will still be scrapping this season and switching starters in and out. But they’ve proven they have the depth to withstand it, with the upside of some of the best starters in the league.

Baltimore Orioles owner David Rubenstein is interviewed during a panel on April 30. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

3. The new team owner is about to be Mr. Splash.

Last week, new Orioles control person David Rubenstein spoke to the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., and talked about the challenge of meeting the attendance peaks of the 1990s — a time before the Washington Nationals and myriad streaming platforms, of course — when Camden Yards once saw 3.7 million fans in 1997. Last year, the Orioles had 1.9 million.

Rubenstein noted that market forces have changed since those times, but said that there was just a slight bump from last season: “Even though we have a great new owner …” he deadpanned to the audience.

Conspiracy theorist that I am, I wondered if Rubenstein’s desire for greater turnout has anything to do with the announcement just days later that he would guest-star as Mr. Splash on Friday night (which also happens to be Mr. Splash bobblehead night). He may not be a baseball expert, but he understands getting folks out to the park takes a bit of a song and dance, and maybe a quick spray from a hose.

When fans hoped a new owner would make a splash, this might not have been what they meant. But you have to admit, it’s a novel role for a 74-year-old billionaire that I’m interested to witness.

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Baltimore Orioles outfielder Anthony Santander lifts his teammate Cedric Mullins in the air after his walk-off homer against the Minnesota Twins on April 17. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

4. You might just see a thriller – and probably a win.

If you were tied in knots while watching Wednesday’s extra-innings nail-biter against the Nationals, maybe this isn’t necessarily a selling point. I’ve started feeling a stabbing pain behind my eye when Craig Kimbrel trots in from the bullpen (“We’re going to stick with him,” manager Brandon Hyde said, a decision I logically understand even if it makes me shudder.)

But beyond the closer issue, the Orioles are a pretty good performing team in tight spaces, even though they’re just 4-4 in one-run games after winning two-thirds of those contests last year. A lot of that has to do with their late game production: They’re third in runs in the seventh inning or later, including an MLB-best 19 homers in that final stretch.

The bullpen is still in the top third of the league in ERA, WHIP and batting average allowed (even if it doesn’t always feel like it). Danny Coulombe and Jacob Webb are off to great starts, and Yennier Cano is again a steady hand. There are answers here while Kimbrel gets right, including Albert Suárez, who looks in line to be one of the team’s long relievers.

The day-to-day variance of baseball means you can’t guarantee a win on any given day, but the Orioles have the next-best thing. Baltimore still has not been swept in a regular season series since May 2022, a 103-series stretch that is now the fourth-longest streak in MLB history. If you go to every game of the Diamondbacks series, you will probably see a victory — no other team in baseball can quite back that up like the O’s.

Baltimore Orioles fans dressed as milkmen wave their caps and "moo" in support of outfielder Colton Cowser. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

5. Invest now. Feel good about it later.

Whenever you’re about to spend your hard-earned money, you should weigh the return on your investment. If the Orioles go on to have a season befitting their special start, getting in the ballpark in early May should feel all the better once October rolls around.

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In reality, Baltimore fans have already weathered the toughest part of the rebuild, when Camden Yards was empty (literally so, during the pandemic) and the team was racking up losses. The hearty few who were watching those lean years are undoubtedly euphoric as these young Orioles have fought their way to the top of the heap.

If you’ve been sidelined these last few years, it’s not too late to capture that feeling and get back to the ballpark. The energy is building. A recent series against New York was, of course, awash with Yankees fans, but not as one-sided as years past, and Orioles fans flooded into the past two Nationals road games themselves.

People want to see a winner. You can, too. There’s no better time to start than now.

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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