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It’s ‘party central’ in the Bird Bath as Mr. Splash hoses down Orioles fans

Rain drizzled down, ever so lightly, on Orioles fans during a recent game at Camden Yards. But in Section 86, it poured — and Michael Hackworth wore swim trunks.

“I came prepared,” Hackworth, 29, said watching the team take on the Los Angeles Angels earlier this month.

He wasn’t talking about braving the natural elements, but about a new water feature in the ballpark.

Section 86 — officially the Bird Bath Splash Zone — is where “Mr. Splash,” a new mascot of sorts, hoses down (mostly) enthusiastic fans. The waterworks start anytime the Orioles record extra-base hits: doubles, triples and home runs.

Almost instantly, the phenomenon became a hit, selling out tickets for the first seven games it was offered.

“I feel like a kid here,” said Hackworth, who is a Birdland member and teaches world history at a public middle school in Virginia.

A disclaimer to those buying tickets for the special section didn’t escape him. The Orioles’ website advises “you and your belongings may become saturated with water” and suggests fans pack their personal belongings in waterproof bags.

“This sounds like a perfect idea for summer,” Hackworth recalled thinking.

All of the team’s celebrations this season are water-themed: Players mime turning on the faucet for singles, bust out “the sprinkler” dance move for doubles and triples and drink from the “homer hose,” a snake funnel resembling a beer bong, for home runs.

Left-handed pitchers Keegan Akin and Cole Irvin came up with the idea for the homer hose. Irvin struck again when he, Akin and catcher James McCann brought the idea that eventually “hatched” the Bird Bath to the team’s public relations department, explained Jennifer Grondahl, the Orioles’ senior vice president of community development and communications.

What began as a spring training talent show gag set the tone for future home games.

In the first 72 hours after the May 10 announcement of the Bird Bath, 2,000 tickets were sold for Section 86, which seats under 200 people, Grondahl said. In mid-May, the number was closer to 4,000. Tickets cost $20 and can be purchased at

“The energy that [the players have] brought to this year so far, and that the fans have brought to the ballpark — they’re playing off of each other,” Grondahl said.

The team has certainly taken notice of the Bird Bath from the field.

“Mr. Splash was letting it fly out there,” left fielder Austin Hays said May 12, when the Bird Bath debuted. “Give that guy a raise out there. He was electric for the boys.”

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That first night, an extra-base hit didn’t come until the fifth inning, but Cedric Mullins became the seventh player in Orioles history to hit for the cycle (hitting a single, double, triple and homer in a single game).

Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said it was when the Bird Bath started that the mood in the stadium began to take off.

“There’s definitely a different energy in the ballpark, and that just makes it more fun for players when it’s louder, when fans are into it,” he said.

Irvin, who had been optioned to Triple-A Norfolk, finally got to see the Bird Bath in person when he was recalled May 16. The Orioles beat the Angels, 7-3, while delivering multiple home runs and extra base-hits.

“I’ve been watching it from afar and watched every game,” Irvin said of the new Splash Zone. “I’m glad the fans get to be a part of it and a part of our team this year — and that’s all it comes down to…just being able to celebrate together.”

Inside Section 86, it was “party central,” said Jeremy Tippett, who sat in the third row with Sarah Langmead during the May 16 game against the Angels. The pair met on Tinder, she said, and made a night in the Bird Bath their first date.

“I’m having a blast,” Tippett, 41, said. “I worry about her.”

He claimed to have informed Langmead before their date that they’d be in the spray zone. She countered that she had no clue.

“The truth is coming out: she clearly skimmed my message,” Tippett said.

They reached a three or four out of 10, on the scale from dry to drenched, thanks to Mr. Splash, Langmead, 34, said. “It’s living up to the hype — and more,” she added, noting that the date was also going well.

Mr. Splash’s identity is a “closely-guarded secret,” according to Grondahl; in a video the Orioles posted on Twitter, he acknowledges that “there’s been a lot of questions about who Mr. Splash is and where Mr. Splash came from,” his voice intentionally distorted.

In Section 86, Mr. Splash wears an inflatable pink flamingo around his waist, a snorkel attached to a scuba mask and a jersey bearing his nickname and the section number.

In the seats farther back, fans also dressed to impress. Hunter Marsh, who sat in the Bird Bath two nights in a row, first showed up wearing crab-shaped goggles. Then, he added a pair of orange arm floaties to his get-up.

Marsh attended the game with friends from the University of Maryland, where he went to college. After Mr. Splash sprayed the crowd for the first time on Marsh’s second night, he was still dry.

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“The water doesn’t get all the way back” to the farthest rows, Marsh, 23, said. “We were hoping it would get up here, I tried to gesture to [Mr. Splash] … but the angle that he’s shooting at will not reach.”

Not everyone, however, was so keen on getting hosed down. Eric Roberts, who went to the game with a Little League team from Roland Park, darted up and away from his aisle seat each time Mr. Splash took aim at the crowd.

“I’m enjoying the festivities, I just didn’t want to get wet,” Roberts, 52, said.

He’d still sit in the Bird Bath for future games, Roberts said, because he enjoys the vantage point — but with one caveat. “I know that I’ll get an end seat, so I can get up and leave” every time Mr. Splash makes his moves, he said.

Birdland members with seats in the section were informed of the water feature before it was announced to the public and were offered a chance to sit elsewhere in the stadium, according to Grondahl. Some opted to stay, she said.

The spray is most intense in the middle seats near the front of the section, where Mr. Splash is posted with a hose. But it also reaches the neighboring Section 84, according to Zach Alligood, a Johns Hopkins University student who watched the May 16 game with classmates.

“I got some splash earlier, but I’d rather be in the splash zone,” Alligood said. He and his friends had looked into sitting in the Bird Bath, only to discover that tickets were already sold out.

The section’s hype might not cool off anytime soon.

“In the summer months, when it’s hot here at Camden Yards, I think that it’ll be even more popular,” Grondahl said.

She also hinted at changes on the horizon, like new “iterations” of the Mr. Splash character.

“I hope he mixes up the floaties every once in a while,” Irvin said. “I think it’d be kind of fun, add some variety to it.”

In the meantime, many fans are still soaking up what Mr. Splash sends their way, Hackworth among them. He plans to return to Section 86, maybe even with his girlfriend or family members, though he said he’ll have to “trick” them to join him in the Bird Bath.

“They’ll like it,” he said, “after a while.”


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