Orioles poised to beat last year’s attendance total

If you follow Orioles attendance totals at all, I know what you’re thinking about that headline: “What?!? But Camden Yards is down nearly 9 percent right now compared with last year!”

OK, true. Sixty-six home games into the season, the Orioles have drawn 1.6 million to the ballpark while last year the team drew 1.76 million in as many games. But hear me out:

1) The team drew about 25,000 Monday night for its first game in a three-game series against the Yankees. (That’s a little more than half-capacity but it’s still way better than the team’s usual 15,000-19,000 on a Monday night.) I predict the series can keep that pace — nice weather and the Yanks being a playoff team — the series should total about 75,000.

2) Next up is a Friday through Sunday series with the Texas Rangers. The last time that team came to Baltimore on a weekend, game attendance averaged nearly 25,000. Prediction: 74,250 series total.

3) Unfortunately the O’s will kill any attendance-building progress with it’s next series: a Monday through Thursday homestand against the Tampa Bay Rays (Sept. 14-17). Combine weekdays, which are usually a shoddy draw for Camden Yards, with a team that doesn’t generate much interest on the road, and let’s just say there won’t be any long lines at the concessions stands for this one. Last time the Rays visited during the week the per-game attendance averaged a little more than 15,000. Prediction: 60,700 series total.

4) Grumble all you want about visiting fans but the next series against Boston (Sept. 18-20) will help kick attendance back up in a big way. The Sox are in a playoff hunt and it’s the weekend — a perfect storm for baseball. Last time Boston visited on a weekend, the games averaged more than 45,000 in attendance. Prediction: 137,000 series total.

5) Lastly, the O’s season will end quietly with a three-game set against Toronto. It’s a weekend series (Oct. 2-4) which should help but with neither of these teams in a playoff hunt, it should be a pretty anti-climactic finish for Camden Yards. The last time Toronto visited on a weekend, the games averaged about 26,900 in attendance. But last year’s weekend series against Toronto to close out the 2008 season only drew about 18,600 per game. I’m leaning more toward the lower end of that scale. Prediction: 65,000 series total.

Add it all up and I’m predicting the O’s will finish out the season drawing 1.99 million to Camden Yards. That would be a 2 percent increase over last year’s total of 1.95 million. It may not be much compared with other ballparks that regularly draw 3 million fans, but when you factor in a recession and a team that’s looking to finish yet another season with a losing record, it’s a sign the ballpark may be back on the upswing.

So, do I have any takers for more than 2 million fans to Camden Yards next year?