A sold-out ballroom jammed with more than 500 baseball fans from the business community welcomed the Baltimore Orioles and the 2012 baseball season at the Greater Baltimore Committee’s 33rd annual “Lunch with the Orioles” on April 5.
Fans at the luncheon welcomed back manager Buck Showalter and Orioles players and coaches, all of whom dined at audience tables on the eve of Opening Day. The team and luncheon guests also celebrated the 20th anniversary of the opening of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, which has served as the prototype for baseball parks built during the last two decades.
An 11:15 a.m. autograph signing session preceded the luncheon program and guests received Orioles souvenir bags.
The Greater Baltimore Committee, the most prominent organization of Baltimore-region business and civic leaders, held its first “Lunch with the Orioles” in 1980 to show business support for the team after the Orioles were bought by Washington D.C. attorney Edward Bennett Williams the year before and went to the World Series.
The popular annual luncheon has continued as a way to demonstrate strong support for the Orioles and majority owner Peter G. Angelos, who purchased the team in 1993.
The history of GBC’s role in keeping the Orioles in Baltimore and in building Oriole Park at Camden Yards is well documented.
In 1979 — the year before the first Lunch with the Orioles — the GBC, Mayor William Donald Schaefer and the Orioles coordinated the creation of a volunteer sales force known as the “Designated Hitters” to promote season ticket sales. That joint effort doubled the advance season ticket sales for the 1980 season.
In 1987, the GBC led business efforts to win legislative approval for construction of Oriole Park at Camden Yards and played a critical role in lease negotiations between the Orioles and the Maryland Stadium Authority that kept the team in Baltimore.