MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

Until this season, that continues to feel too good to be true, on days when the Orioles did not play, Orioles fans found themselves hesitant to go onto their social media outlets of choice (which probably isn’t a bad idea on any day) because they were afraid to find what the owner of the team had done or how he would be making a mess of things by running his mouth.

Would he be suspending the popular play-by-play broadcaster for speaking the truth on the air, or would he be making unhinged comments to the New York Times to bemoan perceived fates of small market ballclubs and warn fans that the team would not likely be able to sign its best young players?

That was the way off-days were for an Orioles fan under John Angelos, who did all of the above as the franchise’s person of control during his late father Peter Angelos’ prolonged illness.

It seemed that on most off-days he was doing something to irritate or threaten his team’s fans, or just do his best to throw a wet blanket on the enthusiasm as though to reiterate to one and all that there was a new little man in town and that he was the one in charge.

Times have definitely changed for the Orioles and their fans, who not only are thrilled with their favorite team’s performance thus far in this young baseball season – 23-11, the best record in the American League – but who have also been delighted since Opening Day when the sale of the team was approved by Major League Baseball to the ownership group of billionaire private equity investor and philanthropist David Rubenstein, who is a native of Baltimore and a life-long Orioles fan.

Since Opening Day, Rubenstein, who is 74, has been visible and available to the fans during games at Camden Yards, patrolling the stands and the concourses, or walking across the street to neighborhood bars to greet fans and introduce himself to them and engage in conversation about the team he clearly loves as a fan and a life-long Baltimorean.

That’s quite a contrast from the previous Orioles ownership, as whenever Peter and then John Angelos attended games they did so surrounded by their posse and security and in a rather Roman Empire way, choosing to lord over the masses in their luxury suite high above the common folk..

Rubenstein, on the other hand, is walking around the ballpark with a friend during games and making new friends along the way. And when he’s not socializing with the fans during games, he’s reaching out to them with enthusiasm on social media with tweets and through the Orioles social media channels with a series of videos highlighting Orioles fandom and the “next chapter” of Orioles baseball, as well as the new ownership group, which includes Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. as a minority partner.

On Monday, which, by the way, was an Orioles off day, the new majority owner reached out again to announce he will be a “guest splasher” in Section 86 (aka the Bird Bath) on Friday, taking over for Mr. Splash by spraying fans with a hose every time the Orioles hit an extra-base hit or score a run as part of the team’s running-water ritual that the players started last season.

“Do all the owners do this?” Rubenstein asked, wearing a dark business suit and an Orioles floppy hat with a flamingo inner tube around his waist in a video the Orioles posted on social media on Monday.

Rubenstein follows former Orioles outfielder Adam Jones and Maryland Gov. Wes Moore as guest splashers on a night the first 20,000 fans ages 15 and older will receive a Mr. Splash bobblehead as the Orioles open a nine-game homestand against the defending National League champion Arizona Diamondbacks.

This guy has already proven himself to be a true man of the people and a fan of the Baltimore Orioles, who also just happens to own them. He’s not only making it fun to be a fan of the ballclub, but he’s encouraging the fans to have fun while being fans of the ballclub.

This is so night and day – and in just a little over a month’s time.

Between what’s been happening on the field and this enthusiastic and fully engaged ownership group, led by the big man himself, Orioles fans have to be asking themselves if this is really happening, or if maybe it’s all just a dream.

“I have an admission to make,” Rubenstein said in a Monday night post on X, “when my distant relatives emigrated from Ukraine to America many years ago their name was Rubensplash, but a clerk at Ellis Island changed it to Rubenstein. Finally, I can publicly embrace my heritage. Go @Orioles.”

This is fun.

I’m looking forward to Thursday. That’s the Orioles’ next day off.

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]. Follow him on X at @MikeBurkeMDT