New owner Rubenstein welcomed home on Opening Day

March 29th, 2024

BALTIMORE -- Before the Orioles players ran down the orange carpet on Thursday afternoon -- and before they went on to handily defeat the Angels, 11-3 -- MASN broadcaster Kevin Brown stood on the field as the emcee of an Opening Day pregame ceremony, during which he rattled off all of the team’s notable offseason events. Each received a round of loud applause.

Gunnar Henderson was unanimously named the 2023 American League Rookie of the Year. He and Adley Rutschman both won AL Silver Slugger Awards. Baltimore swung a blockbuster trade for new ace Corbin Burnes.

And, one day before the 2024 opener, a sale of the team had been finalized with a group led by Baltimore native David Rubenstein becoming the new owners of the Orioles. That drew the loudest ovation of them all.

All 45,029 fans at Camden Yards were excited to welcome Rubenstein home. He was eager to get to know them, even if the 74-year-old wasn’t entirely sure how he’d be viewed.

“I have to remember, I’m not 20 years old anymore and I’m not a teenager,” Rubenstein told on Wednesday. “So I’m sure that the younger people will look at me as an older guy but I’ll try to do the best I can to relate to the fans.”

So far, Rubenstein has done a tremendous job of winning everybody over.

The new ownership group bought a free round of drinks for all of the patrons at nearby Pickles Pub before first pitch Thursday. Not a bad start.

Wearing an old-school, white Orioles hat and a black-and-orange tie, Rubenstein strolled the concourse and took photos with fans. He chatted with the workers at concession stands. He stepped onto the field and put on a customized jersey.

Rubenstein watched the pregame introductions from the Orioles’ dugout. Then, he hand delivered the ball for the first pitch to 10-year-old Aubree Singletary -- a child of a Baltimore postal service worker, exactly like Rubenstein. And moments before the game, Rubenstein and several of his ownership partners yelled the ceremonial, “Play ball!”

“David is a Baltimore guy, and to have him at the helm of this team means everything to the city and to the state,” Maryland Governor Wes Moore said at Rubenstein’s introductory press conference held before Thursday’s contest on the sixth floor of the warehouse at Camden Yards.

As Rubenstein stood at a podium for the first time as the control person of the Orioles, he expressed his optimism surrounding the future of the franchise.

He’s also realistic. He knows that it was “an easy day to say everything is great” and to exude positivity. He wants to make sure the O’s continue to be successful so it can stay that way.

“I don’t want this to be the high-water mark,” Rubenstein said during his press conference. “I want the high-water mark to be in the fall, when we go to the World Series and we show what we are -- a city that supports a great team.”

Rubenstein has already repeatedly praised the work of general manager Mike Elias and manager Brandon Hyde, the leaders who turned around the franchise and guided the Orioles to a 101-61 record and an AL East title in 2023. They’re also poised for more success in ‘24 following their 1-0 start.

Elias is the “best general manager in baseball,” and Hyde is the “best manager in baseball,” in Rubenstein’s opinion. When Hyde was told of that comment before Thursday’s game, he was quite appreciative of the support.

“That’s really nice of him to say,” Hyde said. “My interactions with him have been incredible. He is obviously really smart. He’s extremely funny and witty and such a pleasure to talk to and really interested, curious. ...

“I’ve just walked away every single time just thinking to myself, ‘This guy is unbelievable.’”

For Rubenstein and the rest of his partners -- including Baseball Hall of Famer and O’s legend Cal Ripken Jr. -- this week has been about more than interacting with fans and team executives. They’ve also been meeting the players (or getting to know them better, if they’d already met).

Members of Baltimore’s roster were ecstatic to hear of Rubenstein’s aspirations for a championship in the near future.

“Obviously, we want the leadership to be wanting the World Series as much as we do, and I feel like he’s got the same mind frame,” Henderson said.

“I think he has the best interest of the team at heart. That’s why he purchased the team,” outfielder Austin Hays said. “He’s Baltimore through and through. So having a man like that be in charge of all of us, looking forward to seeing how he runs this team, because he’s got a really good track record, and I think he’s going to do great things for us.”