Named a Finalist Because: By holding its powerful spotlight at the right angle, Orioles Park has gone beyond its role as America’s best ballpark to help big-hearted Baltimore honor its most important heroes.
From the Editors: Let’s get the stuff that any baseball fan knows out of the way: Since opening 25 years ago, gorgeous Oriole Park at Camden Yards has been consistently touted as the friendliest place to watch a ballgame in America. The O’s fans, being from down-to-earth “Balmer,” banter freely with any visitor. They joyously turn “O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave” during our anthem into a live meme, staying quiet until the only word that matters to them: “O!” Given the welcoming, good-natured atmosphere, when you walk out of OPACY after a game, you tend to feel good.
What earned the park our finalist nod was the simple addition of a moment during the ballpark experience when fans look to the scoreboard en masse. Every weekend game, the Birdland Community Heroes program selects someone who has made a courageous difference in Baltimore for a rousing round of applause. The 50 honorees thus far have included a school bus driver who risked her life to save 20 students after the bus caught fire, three men who fought flood waters to rescue trapped motorists, and a Medal of Honor recipient.
The most memorable cheer was for a middle schooler, Thomas Moore, who was inspired to grow his hair out after seeing a picture of a young cancer patient on social media. Moore ended up donating three wigs worth of hair to pediatric cancer patients who had lost their hair due to chemotherapy.
“When you see somebody that young, with that much charisma, passion for life, compassion for others, it’s pretty crazy,” the O’s star outfielder Adam Jones said after meeting Moore. “It just shows you how great this world can be.” Just like Oriole Park.
Read Kristen Hudak’s nomination below to learn more about why Oriole Park might just be the Nicest Place in America.
Now celebrating its 25th anniversary season, Orioles Park at Camden Yards is one of the nicest places in America. Orioles fans flock to The Yard each summer. With the support of Orioles players, coaches, staff, and fans, the entire community rallies around important causes that make our city and our world a kinder place.
Last season, the Orioles introduced the Birdland Community Heroes program to honor and recognize those individuals who inspire others through their spirited commitment to extend a hand in charity, service, hope and harmony. During every weekend home game, a hero is recognized on the scoreboard to rousing applause and often, a standing ovation. To date, the program has recognized 49 individuals ranging from community activists and teachers to firefighters, doctors, nurses, and everyday heroes who display courage by helping a neighbor in need.
During the club’s annual Kids’ Opening Day, more than 42,000 fans were introduced to one of Birdland’s youngest community heroes. Thomas Moore, a middle schooler from Bowie, MD, was inspired to grow his hair out after seeing a picture of a young cancer patient on social media. He grew his hair long enough to donate three wigs to pediatric cancer patients who had lost their hair due to chemotherapy. Moore’s selfless spirit caught the attention of fans and players alike. Prior to the game, he met center fielder Adam Jones, who thanked Moore for being such a great role model to other kids.
“When you see somebody that young, with that much charisma, passion for life, compassion for others it’s pretty crazy that a young kid like that is [making] such an impact. It just shows you how great this world can be,” Jones said.
Prior to being honored, Moore met 11-year old Mo Gaba, who is fighting cancer. Mo lost his eyesight as an infant and continues to battle through cancer treatments. At the team’s annual FanFest celebration in January, Gaba had the opportunity to interview Jones and third baseman Manny Machado on stage in front of a crowd of hundreds. Moore and Gaba interacted prior to Gaba throwing the ceremonial first pitch on Kid’s Opening Day. Gaba also met with Jones and Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who both offered some inspiring words to the youngster. Since that time, the greater Baltimore community and listeners of local radio station FM 105.7 have rallied around Gaba in his battle with cancer, raising more than $33,000 via a GoFundMe page to help with his medical care.
Last fall, the Orioles recognized Renieta Smith, an elementary school bus driver who saved 20 students after the bus caught fire. She repeatedly risked her life to help all children exit the burning bus safely. The Orioles have also recognized three young men who risked their lives in dangerous flood waters to rescue trapped motorists in nearby Ellicott City, MD last fall. Other honorees include the Librarian of Congress, a Medal of Honor recipient, a Vietnam War veteran, a middle school safety patroller, as well as a variety of community advocates.
The Birdland Community Heroes program is just one example of the many times the Orioles community has come together for the greater good. Through community-wide support for these heroes, Birdland community truly represents one of the kindest places in Major League Baseball.
Thomas Moore and Mo Gaba Hit Camden Yards