Most years, Oriole fans have spent the last Saturday morning of January lining up in front of the Baltimore Convention Center for FanFest. With the Orioles not holding FanFest in 2020, they’re trying something new, a three-day Birdland Caravan.
Last month, there was the Winter Warmup event, and just before spring training, February 7-9, the Orioles will conduct the caravan, where players, coaches and executives visit areas surrounding Baltimore to talk about the new season.
Other clubs have had caravans for years. Last weekend, the Cincinnati Reds sent four separate bus tours to areas as far away as Nashville, Louisville, Columbus, Indianapolis and Parkersburg, West Virginia.
The Orioles’ caravan isn’t quite as ambitious, but it’s their first shot at it.
There will be private events at schools in Aberdeen and Timonium, a stop at Fort Meade and other visits to Frederick, Hagerstown, Westminster and York, Pennsylvania.
There will be Happy Hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at The Greene Turtle in White Marsh, the Calvert Brewing Company in Upper Marlboro and the Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick. Each will be from 4-6 p.m.
On Saturday and Sunday, there will be other meet-and-greets in Ellicott City, Annapolis, Frederick and Westminster.
Manager Brandon Hyde, Richie Martin, Gunnar Henderson, DL Hall, Adley Rutschman, Cedric Mullins and coaches Tim Cossins and Fredi Gonzalez will be in White Marsh.
General manager Mike Elias, Trey Mancini, Mike Bordick, Brian Roberts, Hanser Alberto and Ryan McKenna will be in Upper Marlboro.
Eddie Murray, assistant general manager for analytics Sig Mejdal, Dwight Smith Jr., Rio Ruiz, Ryan Mountcastle and Grayson Rodriguez will attend the Frederick Happy Hour.
A complete list of the public events can be found here: https://www.mlb.com/orioles/fans/caravan
The tour will stop at three of the four Maryland affiliate territories — Aberdeen, Bowie and Frederick. The team chose not to extend the caravan to the Eastern Shore.
All stops are within 75 miles from Baltimore. Extending the caravan to Salisbury, home of the Delmarva Shorebirds, would make it a two-hour-plus drive from Baltimore because it’s 120 miles away.
Perhaps if the caravan is successful, it will be lengthened next year and stops in Salisbury and Norfolk will be added.
There are no stops in Baltimore.
The club wants to encourage fans to come back to downtown Baltimore next season. The fears of crime in the immediate vicinity of the stadium have been disproven by the Ravens.
On an unseasonably warm Saturday night in January, more than 70,000 fans made their way downtown for the Ravens’ playoff game, and there wasn’t any chatter about how unsafe it was then.
Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report on February 11 to the Ed Smith Stadium complex in Sarasota. Other than Rustchman, who will be invited as a non-roster player, all the players participating in the caravan and coming to major league camp are infielders and outfielders.
Position players are scheduled to report on February 16.
Will there be robo umps in Sarasota? Commissioner Rob Manfred announced plans to use robot umpires at some spring training games. Manfred said that the “robo umps,” which were used in the Arizona Fall League, would be used in the minor leagues.
The umpires association told ESPN on Wednesday night that human umpires will still be calling the nine games in Florida, where the robot technology will be tested.
The experiment with robotic umpiring began last season with the independent Atlantic League.
Orioles connection with Mets manager: In the wake of the electronic sign-stealing scandal, the New York Mets fired Carlos Beltran, whom they hired to manage the team in November.
He is reportedly being replaced by Luis Rojas, who is the son of former major league player and manager Felipe Alou.
Rojas, who was the Mets’ quality control coach last season, began a brief playing career in the Orioles’ organization in 2000. He never played above Rookie Level.
Among the 28 current major league managers, only Bob Melvin of the Oakland Athletics has played for the Orioles. The jobs in Boston and Houston remain open.