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Every Sports Team Should Do What The Baltimore Orioles Just Did For Kids

“We want to see as many children as possible experience this great game.”

Photos courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles.

The Baltimore Orioles want to make America’s pastime available to more kids with a new program that could radically change game time for families. The team’s new “Kids Cheer Free” initiative invites parents to bring young Orioles fans ages 9 and younger to Oriole Park at Camden Yards free of charge with a regularly-priced ticket in the upper deck.

“Baseball is the bedrock recreational institution in American life, that brings generations of fans together, and we want to see as many children as possible experience this great game in America’s finest ballpark,” says Greg Bader, vice president of communications and marketing for the Orioles. “Attending an Orioles game is the 7th most affordable experience in North American professional sports (out of 122 teams),” he added, “but not everyone can afford to attend as many games as they would like.”

The Orioles are the first MLB team — and according to Bader, the first professional sports team generally — to launch such an offering, which they’re providing alongside a comprehensive expansion of the club’s kids programming and family-friendly amenities, such as a reimagined Kids’ Corner outdoor space with an interactive treehouse and jungle gym, fireworks, and opportunities to run the bases on Sunday home games. They even allow families to bring their own food into the park.

Through its OriolesREACH Gameday Experience Program, underserved youth in the Baltimore area receive complimentary game tickets, concessions, a T-shirt and cap, and transportation to games. Since its inception, the program has hosted more than 150,000 children.

That’s great news, as most kids who get to attend games tend to grow to be lifelong fans of baseball — or even recreational, high school, or collegiate players or coaches — and often introduce their own families to the game later in life.

“I have wonderful memories of attending games with my father,” Bader said. “The most memorable moments as a child were picking out our season ticket location in the upper deck at the Memorial Stadium in 1987, and attending more than 20 games during the ‘Why Not?’ season of 1989, when the Orioles — coming off a 107-loss season the year before — nearly won the American League East.”

In the U.S. today, baseball attracts more than 110 million Americans each year to Major and Minor League games. (That doesn’t include the millions of Americans who cheer for their college, scholastic, and youth baseball programs.)

“Kids Cheer Free” tickets for games from March 31 through April 29 can be reserved now online, at the Oriole Park box office, and at the official Orioles Team Store. Attracting more than 70 million kids and adults to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor area, Oriole Park at Camden Yards is known as the “Ballpark That Forever Changed Baseball” and the leading catalyst for the area’s year-round tourism success.

Bader hopes the program will catch on with teams in other cities, too. “The ultimate goal of the program is to encourage more families with children to attend games, thus growing the game, and hopefully cementing a family’s love of Major League Baseball,” he said.

Now, a whole new generation can join their fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, and loved ones for an afternoon of peanuts and Cracker Jacks — just like we did when we were little.

Of course, it’s always been about so much more than rounding third.

“Looking back,” Bader said, “it was less about the games themselves, and much more about getting to experience them with my father, who is the person responsible for cementing my lifetime of love for the Orioles.”

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