That’s Mr. (Ruben)Splash, To You

New Orioles owner David Rubenstein keeps extending his honeymoon period.

At this very moment, David Rubenstein is the perfect owner of the Baltimore Orioles.

He’s a fan, at heart. He was born and raised here, in Pikesville, where he jokes he played a mean shortstop in a Jewish Little League. And, today, decades later, he’s a content, 74-year-old billionaire who keeps hitting all the right notes two months into taking over control of the beloved hometown professional baseball team in a $1.7 billion deal. 

On a drizzly Friday night at Camden Yards this week, he was also Mr. (Ruben)Splash. There he was, the owner of the team, in khakis and a black Orioles’ City Connect-style jersey, jacket, and old-school O’s hat, the guest sprayer of hose water in Section 86 in left field, a symbol in and of itself of the relationship that’s built between these emergent O’s (and the water-themed celebrations they started last year) and ardent fans who’ve soaked them up.

“You’re going to get very wet, so you better be ready,” Rubenstein warned beforehand. 

In the bottom of the second inning, after Ryan Mountcastle scored the O’s first run of a 4-2 win against the Arizona Diamondbacks on a Jordan Westburg double, Rubenstein squeezed the nozzle and let a stream of water flow into the night sky, a role typically reserved for the publicly nameless man (a second “mascot,” the O’s say, so they don’t reveal his identity), who wears swimmies on his arms and an inflatable flamingo around his waist. Rubenstein played the part for two innings, and signed autographs for every person who asked. 

What good times. The O’s are now 25-12, lead the A.L. East, and have the second-best record in all of baseball. What optimism. What a great time to be a fan.

And what a refreshing change from the last few years, when the O’s previous MLB-mandated “control person” of the team, John Angelos, rarely made public appearances. When he did speak, he didn’t hesitate to make bizarre claims or disheartening comments, like how small-market teams were at competitive disadvantages and the O’s couldn’t keep their top players around without raising ticket prices. 

Instead, now we see an everyman billionaire, if one could exist, and endless potential. In an interview with Apple TV, broadcasting the game Friday night, Rubenstein—a lawyer who made a fortune after co-founding the Wall Street investment firm The Carlyle Group, which specialized in leveraged buyouts, in 1987—was asked what the 10-year-old version of himself might have thought about him owning the Orioles one day.

“I would have said I’d rather be a player on the team than the owner,” he replied. 

At an event at The Economic Club in Washington, D.C. last week with Cal Ripken Jr., part of the new ownership group, Rubenstein—in addition to subtly pitching people to buy tickets and corporate boxes at Camden Yards—showed more of his self-deprecating humor and dry, deadpan delivery.

“I thought if you were good in a Jewish Little League, the Orioles would scout you,” he said. “Turns out, I was wrong. They said they would scout you for potential owners, not potential players.” 

For fans who have been around for a while, this start might sound similar, but different, to how the Peter Angelos era began in the early 1990s. Angelos, who passed away in March, was a hometown fan from Highlandtown, and emphasizer and lawyer for the working class. He won control of the Orioles at an auction and was considered the savior of a club that could have gone the way of the Colts, out of town. But the good vibes didn’t last forever. 

Upon his formal introduction as owner at a press conference in the B&O Warehouse on Opening Day, Rubenstein, the son of a postal worker, acknowledged he was enjoying a honeymoon phase of his ownership. Maybe it won’t last, particularly if long-term contract extensions for guys like Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman—thanks to Rubenstein and his partners’ deep pockets—don’t become a reality sooner than later.  

But, for now, Rubenstein keeps doing and saying all the right things that make you want to root for the team even harder, and forget that he has more money than God and owns a rare copy of the Magna Carta.

“It seems like he’s got all the right intentions,” Mountcastle told us earlier this season. “We’re super excited to have him on board. He wants to win just like all of us.” 

Perhaps what we love most is that Rubenstein speaks about how much Baltimore means to him every chance he gets, doesn’t take himself seriously, and has remarkable humility. He’s used to public life and hosts his own interview shows on Bloomberg and public television with some of the world’s more recognizable people, but he is far from unapproachable.

At the event in D.C. last week, Rubenstein told the audience, in response to a question about his best streak (he was sitting next to the Ironman, Cal, remember), that it was calling his mother every day after his father passed, until her death.

“My mother lived another six years after my father died, and I resolved that I would call her every single night, which I did,” he said. “Nothing makes a parent happier than hearing from their child.” 

On Opening Day, a giddy Rubenstein sat in the MASN broadcast booth and swapped stories with Jim Palmer like they were old friends. Rubenstein has also joined the O’s on the road, in Pittsburgh, for away games. He’s trolled the Yankees on Twitter after a series win. And every time he’s been at Camden Yards, he’s invited season ticket holders into the owner’s suite.

And, yes, this is a business, too, so he’d like more of you to pay for tickets and come to games. But, suddenly, that seems like a much easier ask coming from someone okay with being Mr. (Ruben)Splash.