Orioles Fan

Six months ago I was standing at the light rail station outside Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore.

A man approached me and said he hadn’t eaten in three days. I spent about 20 minutes with this man; we had lunch together.

“Are you an Orioles fan?” I asked him.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “Huge O’s fan.”

“Ever been to a game here?” I asked.

And he looked at me sideways, as if I just had asked the most absurd, insulting question he could have imagined. “Naah,” he said and shook his head. And he said it like that: “Naah.”

I felt embarrassed and extremely small.

He told me he had spent most of 30-plus years in roughly a 10-block arc of where we were standing at that light rail platform, directly in the shadow of one of the most beautiful baseball parks ever constructed.

“The economy,” he said. “There are no jobs.”

I nodded and said I understood. And then I asked him what one single thing would help the economy to develop in his neighborhood.

After another short pause, he answered. “I got two: We need more people to know our story and we need money to come into our neighborhood and circulate here.”

I asked him how to do both of those things and he responded: “I don’t know. What do you think?”

I said I didn’t know either.

And then we talked a little bit about Ben Roethlisberger’s head injury and the Ravens-Steelers game coming up that Sunday.

And when the train came, we shook hands and I left him at that light rail station on Howard Street in downtown Baltimore behind Oriole Park at Camden Yards. And as the train pulled south past the Camden warehouse, I started to consider the man’s question.

This man lived right in the heart of Baltimore. He was a self-identified “huge O’s fan.” He had never been to a game in his own hometown.

Meanwhile, I had been to over a dozen games at Camden Yards and I haven’t lived in Baltimore for 20 years.

Why is that?

Experience Baseball believes baseball and its fans have a unique opportunity to help to improve the quality of life in baseball communities, closing the gap between those watching the game and those underserved communities outside the stadium walls.

  • The average household income within a mile of U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago is $17,000. Most of these homes bring in less than $10,000 a year. (US Census)
  • In neighborhoods surrounding Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, the number of residents over 25 with a bachelor’s degree is less than half the national average. (US Census)
  • Outside Oriole Park at Camden Yards in downtown Baltimore, this man hadn’t eaten in three days.
But consider more than 60% of baseball fans in America live in households with an income above $75,000More than 81% of baseball fans live in households with at least one college graduate.

Baseball fans are eager to learn about the history of baseball and about baseball’s relationship to its home communities. The stories of baseball in Chicago, Kansas City, Baltimore, and every baseball city are stories that weave in and out of the the neighborhoods and communities of diverse people in downtown, high-density urban centers. It’s not all legends of great players or hulking stadiums. There are baseball stories impacted by social issues relating to historic racism, socio-economic disparities, education gaps, food deserts, homelessness, and many other challenges for urban neighborhoods existing in the shadow of a stadium.

Experience Baseball collects these stories from baseball clubs, fans, researchers, and community leaders. We share these stories through interactive, half-day baseball community tours that end with seats at a live pro baseball game. Our tours end at a live pro baseball game and we donate proceeds to a community organization that works to fight social challenges unique to their baseball community. We believe baseball, as much as or more than anything else, has the power to transform communities.