MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports­­

As Washington Commanders fans celebrate their first full day of independence from the 24-year nightmare that was former owner Daniel Snyder, Baltimore Orioles fans can only look down the BW Parkway with envy, as the ownership of Peter Angelos, now incapacitated by serious illness, and his family continues to haunt them and hinder what should be their most enjoyable fan experience in too many years.

At a time when everything is finally going right for the Orioles where you most want it to go right – on the field with a very good, first-place team – all else seems amiss, beginning with the brutal Angelos family feud between brothers John, who is running the baseball part of the family operations, and Louis, who is suing John and the brothers’ mother Gloria, wife of Peter Angelos, to the lack of renewal of the team’s lease at Camden Yards, to the smallest of things off the field that help the organization, in theory, make money and be viable.

To wit, my friends and I took in Wednesday afternoon’s Orioles game with the defending National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers and, for the most part, we enjoyed ourselves because the Orioles won, 8-5.

After our normal pregame at Section 771 (formerly Sliders) across the street from the ballpark, we all picked up a delicious hot dog from one of the street vendors on our way into the park. I would highly recommend this if you love a hot dog with your ballgame (and I do), because there’s a good chance you’re not going to get one (or anything) inside the ballpark.

On Opening Day, for instance, I waited over 40 minutes in line for a hot dog I had already paid for, as hungry fans now order everything on a kiosk and pay on the machine (Orioles Park is all-plastic, no cash). Then you wait for somebody to bring you your order. I waited for 40 minutes, because there were only three people working this particular double-concession stand on a sold-out Opening Day and they were literally putting the hot dogs on the grill as they were being ordered.

Now, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt on Opening Day, because it’s a new concessions company, it was the first day and it was a sellout crowd. But on Wednesday (the 50th home game), the announced paid attendance was 22,248, which, in theory, should be more manageable.

It wasn’t. The first time we went downstairs to try to buy beer there was nobody in place to serve us, which on a sweltering Baltimore afternoon is a problem because there are no longer mobile beer vendors anywhere in the stands or in the concourse of the upper deck.

One of my friends had experienced the same problem before, not once, but twice, in trying to buy food, as last month I took great delight in following his long and extended tirade on Twitter, while he (not I) was attending an Orioles game, detailing his inability to throw gobs of money the Orioles’ way as he could not receive service from the new concessions company.

Most of the concession stands in the upper deck are not even open, which not only is sad, but a very bad look, and the stands that are open are painfully understaffed.

The Orioles struck the new concessions deal at the start of the year with the Chicago-based Levy to be the ballpark’s new “hospitality operator,” ending the contract with Delaware North, the Buffalo-based company that had been in charge of food and beverage sales at Camden Yards since 2010.

In the January press release making the announcement, Levy is described as “the disruptor (?) in defining the sports and entertainment hospitality experience,” which, based on their first four months of operations at Camden Yards must mean they don’t want the experience to be a pleasant one; because, trust me, it isn’t.

I don’t know who is in charge of staffing, Levy or the Orioles, but either or both need to do something about it because with the way this team is playing, there are going to be larger and hungrier crowds in the coming weeks and months. Just think how this current ineptitude is going to reflect on Levy and the Orioles when games with a national presence are being played at Camden Yards.

And don’t even get me started on the Orioles Store in the B&O Warehouse; twice this season we’ve seen long lines of customers turned away because the store, which used to be open year-round, closes 15 minutes after each game ends – no exceptions.

The Orioles, under the Angelos family’s reign of terror, have liked to cry poverty, and if that is the case (it is not), then no wonder. Despite being a so-called “small market” team, with this team playing the way it’s playing, the Orioles have a license to print money but refuse to take it by making the overall fan experience at the ballpark quite unsatisfactory.

The centerfield scoreboard, or information board, for instance, is an outdated joke and is on its last gasp. There is no information on it and you need Columbo just to help you find something as unimportant as the score. You need the Hubble Space Telescope just to read it. And the sound system? What sound system?

Maybe if this lease that John Angelos led us to believe would be signed over the All-Star break (last week) would ever be signed, the Orioles could go about taking care of the 31-year-old ballpark that desperately needs it.

Yes, I have the Baltimore paranoia; I remember the Colts and I have witnessed the mismanagement of the Orioles organization since 1993, just as the late, great Cas Taylor promised me I would the very day Peter Angelos gained control of the team. So forgive me for not believing a word that comes from the mouth of anybody named Angelos.

Where is the new lease with the state of Maryland? Where are the Orioles’ books that John Angelos promised to open? Where is the customer service? Where is the honesty? Where is the integrity?

This organization is in inept and untrustworthy hands. I don’t see a happy ending.

I’m still waiting to see the beer.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT