From the moment the Orioles vacated the visiting dugout in Arlington, Texas, with an American League Division Series sweep suffered at the hands of the Rangers stuck in their throats, they’ve imagined making amends.

It drove them into the winter. It drove these players into batting cages, onto mounds and into gyms around the globe. It drove them through six weeks of spring training, with that disappointment-turned-fuel pumping in their veins.

On Thursday at Camden Yards, these Orioles will begin their quest for a more satisfying end to 2024 than the bitter taste swallowed at Globe Life Field in Texas.

As Baltimore prepares for opening day, the circumstances around the organization have thoroughly changed in as many ways as they have stayed the same.

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The players who will jog down the orange carpet at Camden Yards? That’s a similar group to last year. But the off-field circumstances? Between a new lease agreement at the historic stadium and the impending sale of a majority stake in the franchise, it couldn’t look more different than four months ago, when Baltimore last played a game that counted.

After a whirlwind of an offseason, here’s a refresher on all that occurred.

The team

The gang is just about all here — with a few key additions.

Stars such as shortstop Gunnar Henderson and catcher Adley Rutschman remain as the centerpieces of the Orioles, and the supporting cast looks much the same. The outfield is intact: Austin Hays, Anthony Santander and Cedric Mullins are once more the trio patrolling the grass. And Ryan Mountcastle and Ryan O’Hearn return as first basemen and sluggers. There’s even more talent waiting in the minors, including infielders Jackson Holliday and Coby Mayo.

Orioles starter Dean Kremer looks on after being pulled from Game 3 against the Texas Rangers with two outs in the second inning. He gave up six earned runs.
Orioles starter Dean Kremer sits in the dugout after leaving Game 3 of the 2023 American League Division Series against Texas. (Ulysses Muñoz)

The one major absence comes in the form of right-hander Félix Bautista, the reliever who rose rapidly to become one of the best closers in baseball. Dubbed “The Mountain” in respect to his 6-foot-8 frame, Bautista will miss the season as he recovers from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.

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But Baltimore made two critical additions that could push the team further in the postseason. The first was right-handed closer Craig Kimbrel, a free agent addition signed to help cover for the lack of Bautista’s innings.

The other is right-hander Corbin Burnes.

Burnes is the long-awaited ace for Baltimore who arrived in a trade from the Milwaukee Brewers. The former winner of the Cy Young Award — given to the best pitcher in each league each season — will take the mound opening day and look to guide a rotation that stumbled in October.

As general manager Mike Elias said throughout the offseason, there wasn’t a roster overhaul required. Instead, the addition of two key arms coupled with the return of most of Baltimore’s position players makes the Orioles a contender once more.

“A lot of these veteran guys like it that we’re just out here having fun,” right-hander Tyler Wells said. “That’s been a really cool thing to see over the last couple years, and I think that will continue to play out well for us this year.”

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The lease

For all the certainty on the field, there was far less away from it — for instance, would the Orioles even have a field?

Crisis averted.

The Orioles are still at Camden Yards for at least 15 more years and up to 30. That’s because a new lease agreement was finalized in December after months of back and forth. There was a memorandum of understanding that faced political backlash. Then an agreement fell apart at the 11th hour, only for it to be resurrected with alternate terms about two weeks before the original lease terms were set to void.

The lease with the state and the Maryland Stadium Authority includes a path toward a ground lease for the area around the ballpark complex, which would allow the Orioles to develop the location with year-round attractions, such as bars and restaurants.

The inclusion of the development rights in the lease agreement was a major draw for John Angelos, who at that point was the Orioles’ chairman and control person (more on this later). The final lease agreement terms indicate the Orioles have until the end of 2027 to reach an agreement on a ground lease and redevelopment plan around the stadium.

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Should the organization and state not agree to a development plan within that timeline, the Orioles could cut the 30-year lease to 15 years.

The conclusion of a lease saga that dragged on for months seemed to be the end of a wild offseason. It was only the start.

The sale

Almost two months later, another bombshell landed. The Orioles were for sale.

After owning the team since 1993, the Angelos family chose to relinquish majority ownership and agreed to sell 40% of their stake to a group led by billionaire and philanthropist David Rubenstein for $1.725 billion.

The ownership group includes Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and billionaire Michael Arougheti, the co-founder, CEO, president and director of Ares Management Corp.

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The deal is nearing completion. The last step required is approval from Major League Baseball’s owners, and it is expected to be wrapped up by opening day.

Billionaire David Rubenstein will soon become the control person of the Orioles when the sale of the team is finalized. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Once the deal is confirmed, Rubenstein will become the designated control person for the club.

The news was met with optimism for the future of the Orioles in Baltimore. In Rubenstein’s first public statement, he immediately ingratiated himself with the fans by declaring “our collective goal will be to bring a World Series Trophy back to the City of Baltimore.”

It was one final twist during a wild offseason. Come Thursday, when players take the field for opening day, winning baseball games will take center stage once more.

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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