O's set to celebrate 50 millionth fan

O's set to celebrate 50 millionth fan

BALTIMORE -- When Camden Yards opened its doors on April 6, 1992, the Orioles knew their ballpark marked the start of a new era in baseball stadiums. Incorporated into the downtown area, Camden Yards began a revitalization process for the Inner Harbor that has led to a massive transformation of the waterfront in Baltimore.

Seventeen seasons later, the Orioles are now receiving the ultimate affirmation on the importance and popularity of their ballpark as they get set to welcome the 50 millionth fan in Oriole Park history -- the fastest ballpark in the history of baseball to reach such a milestone.

"It's very exciting for us because we think it represents more than just a number," said Orioles Director of Communications Greg Bader. "It represents a new era of ballparks. What Camden Yards did for Baltimore, for Maryland and even for the entire country, really changed the way baseball ballparks were built.

"Putting it in the heart of the city where there's all kinds of things to do downtown within walking distance, was unheard of when Camden Yards was proposed and built, and then you see a wave of ballparks that mirror that, not only from an aesthetic standpoint but from a practicality standpoint ... Fifty million fans in 17 seasons really proves what a success Oriole Park has been for the community."

And just as Camden Yards was treated to a memorable celebration when it opened, the Orioles are planning on marking the 50 millionth push of the turnstiles in a grand way -- $50,000 to be exact.

When the 50 millionth fan walks through the gates at Camden Yards, he or she will receive $50,000, season tickets for five years and a VIP package that includes seat upgrades, a commemorative jersey and participation in an on-field check presentation. The Orioles have teamed with the Maryland Lottery to make the celebration possible.

"The Maryland Lottery is thrilled to be a part of these historic moments," said Lottery Director Buddy Roogow in an Orioles press release. "It is an honor to help the Orioles celebrate the rich history and tradition of Major League Baseball in Maryland."

Entering Tuesday, the Orioles are just 2,861 fans away from reaching the 50 million mark.

"We're going to use the technology available to us to designate a 50 millionth fan the moment the 50 millionth fan enters the ballpark," Bader said. "It will be based on turnstile count and ... essentially it's being in the right place at the right time. We're ready to go to whatever entrance [our technology] tells us that the 50 millionth fan entered."

That fan can expect that their night out at Camden Yards will then be a little different than most. Depending on the time the 50 millionth fan enters the park, they will either be part of a pregame or mid-game on-field ceremony where they will be presented with the $50,000 check.

And the celebrations early in the week are just the beginning as the Orioles are also preparing to welcome the 100 millionth fan in franchise history, between both Memorial Stadium and Camden Yards, a milestone that is expected to be reached later in the week when the Orioles welcome the Yankees. The celebration for reaching that mark will mirror the 50 millionth, except that lucky fan will receive $100,000 as well as the VIP package and season tickets for five years. To reach 100 million, the Orioles will need to welcome 157,273 more fans.

Fans can purchase tickets to any of the games this homestand by visiting www.orioles.com or calling 1-888-848-BIRD.

Amanda Comak is an associate reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.