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With the Super Bowl in the rearview mirror, spring training on the horizon and MLB teams releasing their full 2021 schedules, it's past time to start getting excited for another season of Orioles baseball.
It's unclear whether or not fans will be allowed in Camden Yards at any point in 2021, and of course the entire schedule comes with the caveat that the COVID-19 pandemic may cause sweeping changes throughout the season.
But still, with the schedules now out, it's a great chance to start circling the calendar for some of the biggest series on the Orioles' slate this year.
April 1: Orioles at Red Sox: It's Opening Day! Does anything more need to be said? This is an unofficial national holiday, and it may as well be an official one for baseball fans. The O's are on the road once again to kick off their season, and for the second straight year it will come in Boston.
April 8: Orioles vs. Red Sox: The Orioles' home opener is also slated against the Red Sox. Hopefully for Orioles' fans, they will be allowed in the stadium and able to experience the orange carpet and the rest of the annual festivities to mark the occasion.
May 18-20: Orioles vs. Rays: The Orioles won't be facing the defending World Series champions this season, but they will go up against the American League pennant winners in Tampa. This is their first look against the Rays in 2021, and while it is unlikely, depending on how both teams decide to play it with their best prospects it may have the added intrigue of involving the two best prospects in baseball - Wander Franco and Adley Rutschman.
May 21-23: Orioles at Nationals: The Battle of the Beltways continues for another year, as the O's are slated to face the entire NL East in 2021. The Nationals and Orioles were among MLB's worst records in 2020, but the regional rivals are both hoping to take steps forward in 2021. This is Orioles' fans' annual chance to see their team on the road, but still close by in the nation's capital (again, if fans are even allowed in the ballpark).
June 21-23: Orioles vs. Astros: Fans across every MLB ballpark were robbed of their chances to react to (aka BOO) the Astros in 2020, coming off the revelation of their years-long sign-stealing scheme. If fans are in Camden Yards for this one, you can be sure they will make their opinions heard for every Astros at-bat.
July 23-25: Orioles vs. Nationals: The Orioles return the favor to their "crosstown" rivals, getting to host the Nationals in their own ballpark in their first home series after the All-Star break. Regardless of where the two franchises are in the standings at this point, this is always a fun, close series.
August 10-12: Orioles vs. Tigers: It may seem strange to include an Orioles-Tigers series, but the truth is that if these two teams don't take the leaps forward they hope to, then it is likely they will be competing with each other for a top pick in the 2022 MLB Draft. These two combined to make every No. 1 overall pick from 2018-2020, and they are both in the top five again in 2021. If these picks pan out, then in the coming years this series might be circled for its important in the pennant race.
September 6-9: Orioles vs. Royals: Similarly to the O's-Tigers series, Orioles-Royals could play a crucial role in who picks where at the top of the 2022 MLB Draft. And for two teams in the midst of rebuilds, that can be vitally important. Especially coming this late in the season, a four-game series could flip the draft order on its head.
September 14-16: Orioles vs. Yankees: The Orioles are certainly hoping they won't be concerned about draft order at this point in the season. And if they are somehow competing, then the Yankees will certainly be one of the teams in their way. If not, then there's still nothing Orioles fans will like better than getting to play spoiler for New York, and this series will be their last chance to do it in 2021.
October 1-3: Orioles at Blue Jays: The last series of the season comes north of the border (or wherever the Blue Jays are playing their home games at this point, thanks to the pandemic) against another AL East rival. Once again, if the Orioles hope to be competitive, it's likely the Blue Jays will serve as Wild Card competition. This is one of the better young core's in baseball, and if the Orioles have called up most of their top prospects by this point in the season, it could make for a fascinating preview of the future of the AL East.