A sold-out ballroom jammed with more than 500 baseball fans from the business community welcomed the Baltimore Orioles and the 2011 baseball season at the Greater Baltimore Committee’s 2011 Lunch with the Orioles on April 6 at the Sheraton Baltimore Center City Hotel.
Fans at the luncheon got to personally welcome back manager Buck Showalter and Orioles players and coaches, all of whom dined at audience tables. Prior to the luncheon, GBC fans lined the hall for an autograph session with a dozen players, while other Orioles handed out souvenir bags and posed for photos with guests as they entered the ballroom.
Players and coaches said they were moved by Baltimore’s show of support for the team. Showalter and players uniformly praised the tangible, spirited reception they received from the orange-clad, sold-out Opening Day crowd at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
This year’s event was the 32nd annual Lunch with the Orioles. The GBC launched the event 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 GBC’s contributions to keeping the Orioles in Baltimore and building Oriole Park at Camden Yards are well documented.
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 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.