There’s an empty seat in Baltimore

When meeting someone new in almost any campus, the same four questions always come out.

What’s your name?

What year are you?

What’s your major?

Where are you from?

I always fear the last one. I pray that the person I am speaking with will choose to ask me a simpler question, such as what my favorite color is. But my prayers usually go unanswered, and the last question will still be brought up. The person who I am speaking with, nine times out of ten, looks at me expectantly, waiting for me to announce some city in California proudly.

I shrug and say, “It’s complicated.”

I’m being a bit dramatic; my story isn’t really that exciting. Born in Pittsburgh, I will forever be a Yinzer at heart. I lived in the city of Black and Gold for 10 great years. But in the middle of fourth grade my family moved to Baltimore.

I hated Baltimore. I wanted nothing more than to be back in Pittsburgh. Because of my utter hatred of my new home, I ended up clinging to the Pittsburgh Steelers to feel that I was still a girl from western Pennsylvania. I became a fanatic and will die one. But we can talk about the Steelers a different day (literally any other day).

My dislike for Baltimore largely stayed with me for the full eight years I was there. It never truly felt like home for some reason.

My parents moved to Memphis, Tennessee, as soon as I left the house for college. It’s been two years since I spent more than a week in the state, but I have felt a sense of belonging to Maryland for a little while now. It’s strange.

Everyone is aware of what is happening in Baltimore this week — a state of emergency has been declared and the National Guard is there. I have to throw in here some honesty to stay true to my fellow Baltimoreans — I did not live in the city, I am from a suburb in Baltimore County. I am a white girl who grew up with a middle-class background. I still feel that it is my city, however. Just in a different way.

The Baltimore Orioles were supposed to have two home series this week, but there is currently a curfew in the city; you cannot be out from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. The first two games against the Chicago White Sox on Monday and Tuesday were canceled. Part of the reason was the fear of violence, another was that you can’t have a game start at 7:10 p.m. and everyone be tucked in by 10 p.m. The third game Wednesday was played, but was closed to the public.

Yep, that’s right. The game was played with all green seats folded up for the first time in MLB history. Eerie, empty, completely opposite to the character of the people of Baltimore. Despite the lack of presence in the seats, people lined the fences outside the park, stood on balconies of the Hilton across the street, and checked-in at Camden Yards on Facebook in support of the team.

I don’t get the decision to play Wednesday’s game in this way. It seems like the city is being punished for what happened, instead of their many attempts to move on from it and create real change for the better. I know that what is going on is more important than any sports game could ever be, but this move seems to unnecessarily condemn the actions of the people of Baltimore.

In spite of this, the Orioles played superbly for their silent fans, scoring six runs in the first inning. They went on to win the game, 8-2. But “Take Me Out To the Ballgame” and the Orioles classic “Thank God I’m A Country Boy” played to deaf ears, no crab cakes were eaten and Caleb Joseph signed autographs and waved to the invisible spectators.

In addition to the Orioles’ game being rescheduled, the Baltimore Ravens (yuck) have decided to cancel their NFL Draft Party on Thursday, which was to take place just blocks away from Camden Yards at M&T Bank Stadium. I guess they will just have to celebrate their two Super Bowl wins by themselves.

Jokes aside, sort of, the actions of the professional sports teams reflect the seriousness of what is going on in Baltimore. Yes, they are sports teams. But I have always felt that sports teams are the lifeblood of a city. They draw people together and unify them. As a whole, it appears that the people of Baltimore have been peacefully protesting.

Fans stood outside the gate for a game they could barely see, and people all over the world watched. Hell, I even watched the game during lecture. The MLB probably is making the right call, but I wonder if making the game public would have united the city in the way that teams do. We will never know.

I hope for change and peace in Baltimore. I hope that this will be the last game a team will have to play where the attendance is zero. I hope for safety and improved conditions for everyone in Baltimore and that the Orioles will be able to actually play in front of their fans soon. I hope that the endless debates that are playing out on Facebook from all the people in Baltimore will end soon and will continue to create good change.

Sports teams are symbolic of the city they play in. This week the Orioles can’t even be home. This country needs to do better.

If you ask me where I’m from, I still might not want to get into it with you. But I will always proudly be able to say, “I’m from Baltimore.”

Contact Alaina Getzenberg at [email protected]

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