GBC Lunch with the Orioles to give fans close-up look at team

As many as 500 baseball fans in business suits are expected to descend upon the Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel on April 8 for the Greater Baltimore Committee’s 30th annual Lunch with the Orioles.

This year’s program gives fans a chance to welcome back Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis, and Melvin Mora; greet newcomers Felix Pie, Cesar Izturis, and Ty Wigginton; and meet all the Orioles players and coaches who will dine with audience members. An 11:30 a.m. reception prior to the luncheon program will feature autograph signings, a Dixieland band, and a display from the Babe Ruth Museum and Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards.

Lunch with the Orioles remains one of the most popular GBC events.

Sponsors of the 2009 Lunch with the Orioles are: GBC’s 2009 Corporate Sponsor University of Maryland, Baltimore; Double Sponsors Baltimore Business Journal, The Daily Record, T.Rowe Price Group, Inc., and VPC, Inc.; and Single Sponsors McCormick & Company and SunTrust Bank.

The first Greater Baltimore Committee Lunch with the Orioles was in 1980, the year after the Orioles were bought by noted Washington DC attorney Edward Bennett Williams and went to the World Series. The event demonstrates strong business community support for major league baseball in Baltimore.

Historically, the GBC has had a role in professional sports development since its opening days. The GBC’s first Chairman, Clarence W. Miles, teamed with Mayor Thomas J. D’Alesandro, Jr., and won the bid to bring the St. Louis Browns baseball franchise to Baltimore in 1954. Miles gained national attention for his persistence on what was regarded as a lost cause.

In 1979, the GBC, Mayor William Donald Schaefer and the Orioles had coordinated the creation of a volunteer sales force, known as the “Designated Hitters,” to promote the sale of baseball season tickets. That joint effort led to a 100 percent increase in advance season ticket sales for the 1980 season.

The GBC’s contributions to keeping the Orioles in Baltimore and winning legislative approval for construction of Oriole Park at Camden Yards are well documented. The GBC led business efforts to win legislative approval for the stadium project in 1987, and successfully defeated legal challenges from stadium opponents.

The GBC, stepping in at a critical juncture, broke stalled lease negotiations between the Orioles and the Maryland Stadium Authority. The GBC arranged a guarantee to back the sales of season tickets for the next 10 years. GBC leaders recruited 30 members to support a $10 million letter of credit to back the ticket sales guarantee that helped close the Orioles’ deal. This initiative broke the impasse that led to agreement on a long-term Orioles lease and the construction of the Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

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