SARASOTA, Fla. — During Maryland Gov. Wes Moore’s visit Friday to the Orioles’ Ed Smith Stadium complex, he was scheduled to take batting practice and throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
But the visit to Sarasota on Friday and to Atlanta’s Truist Park on Thursday were a strategic move from Moore, a Democrat who has been in office since Jan. 18. It’s a way to show the Orioles how much they mean to Baltimore and make progress on securing a long-term commitment from the Major League Baseball organization to Camden Yards and the city.
“It should not be lost on anybody that I’ve been in office for less than two months and my first trip outside the state of Maryland is down here to go spend time with the Orioles ownership,” Moore told The Baltimore Banner. “I take this very seriously. And I feel very good that they understand that not only is this a priority for our administration, and it’s a priority for the state of Maryland. But I believe deeply it’s a priority for them as well.”
In a phone interview Friday, Moore emphasized his belief that the Maryland Stadium Authority and Orioles will come to an agreement over a new long-term lease at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. He underscored his passion to develop the stadium complex at Camden Yards into a year-round destination.
And he called the Orioles a “linchpin” for Baltimore, a team that is an intrinsic part of the city and its culture.
“I think they understand and are excited about the fact that this is such an early priority for our administration, and I feel good about our prospects to get a quality, sound and productive deal done that’s going to make sure we have Orioles baseball in Baltimore for generations to come,” Moore said. “And something that’s going to benefit the entire neighborhood and the entire community.”
The Orioles’ lease at Camden Yards, their home since 1992, is set to expire at the end of this year. Earlier in spring training, Orioles chairman and CEO John Angelos said his goal was to have a new lease finalized by the All-Star break.
Moore is committed to finding a resolution even earlier.
“My timeline is as soon as possible,” Moore said. “I want to get this deal done ASAP. I think our ability to move quickly and prioritize and be down here this early in our administration, I think it reflects that.”
Moore and Angelos visited Truist Park in Atlanta on Thursday, touring the Braves stadium and the surrounding area known as The Battery, a mixed-use destination that features a concert venue, shops and restaurants surrounding the stadium.
When Angelos opted against triggering the one-time, five-year extension of the Orioles’ lease at Camden Yards by the Feb. 1 deadline, he and Moore released a joint statement emphasizing their commitment to developing a multi-use, “live, work, play” destination around the Camden Yards stadium complex.
The Battery, the $400 million entertainment district around Truist Park, is something Angelos and Moore wish to reproduce in Baltimore.
“I think Atlanta is the best example of what’s possible if you can do it,” Angelos said last month. “And I think that’s what we all aspire to do. I think the state does, I know the mayor does, to really make a statement for why Baltimore is back and why it’s going to be a big part of the future of the country and thought of in a can-do way instead of in some of the ways it’s been thought of in the past.”
But the locales are different; one is an urban setting, the other is located 10 miles northwest of downtown Atlanta in Cobb County.
“The Battery is the example for Georgia,” Moore said. “I think Camden Yards and downtown is going to be the example for Maryland. And I think we have the infrastructure, we have so many of the assets right there, but as I said during the campaign trail, I feel unfortunately we’re asset rich and strategy poor.
“So the strategy that we’re going to be developing is going to be focused on that downtown area,” Moore continued. “We have capital [in the proposed budget] that’s actually been earmarked for the Convention Center, and things like Harborplace, because we know the revitalization and the buildout of Baltimore, downtown Baltimore, is going to be an important component to what it means to have a measurement of, not just growth in downtown Baltimore, but also how that’s going to be reflected and how that’s going to benefit the entire state.”
Moore said he and Angelos became close in 2015, when he reached out to Angelos following the death of Freddie Gray. Moore thanked Angelos for his “thoughtfulness” with his statements.
Since then, “we became friends,” Moore said, and once he became governor, “we’ve been in consistent communication with” the Orioles and Angelos.
On Monday, Craig Thompson officially became the board chair of the Maryland Stadium Authority, which owns and manages the ballpark. He joined Moore on the trip to Atlanta and Sarasota to join in meetings with Angelos and other members of the Orioles front office.
Despite the change in leadership of the Maryland Stadium Authority during a pivotal negotiation period, Moore emphasized how Thompson “is moving with the kind of pace and the kind of urgency that I would expect and that I know he brings to bear.”