It’s hard for me to believe that Camden Yards is now over 18 years old, with the stadium opening when I was only 9, way back in 1992. The stadium ushered in a new era of high-design ballparks with retro quirks – the warehouse behind right field being Camden Yard’s calling card.
In addition to the warehouse, which dominates the scene, is the open center field skyline view of downtown, the open patio area in the outfield concourse, and of course the crab cakes, each of which adds to the majesty of the park.
And it truly is a majestic park. It took me 18 years to get there, but it won’t take that many to get back.
The O’s fans themselves seem largely beaten down; Baltimore is a baseball town that has endured the Peter Angelos era with a knowing smirk and pitiful attendance. Most in the ballpark seemed more concerned with the sausage race on the scoreboard or booing the latest fan with a case of foul ball dropsies (seriously, the people that go to O’s games these days have very bad hands). The people are there for the park, the food, the experience – not so much, seemingly, the baseball. I did see one hardcore fan in a Camden Chat shirt however.
But with the sparse attendance comes opportunity for the out of town fan, of which I took advantage. Tickets can be had for cheap. My seat down the 3rd base line in the 8th row of the lower section was only 30 dollars total. 30 dollars doesn’t get you much at some parks, but it gets your pretty close at Camden. Quite a few Sox fans were in attendance.
I got to the park early, got in at an empty gate (it literally took me about 90 seconds from scanning my ticket to arriving at my seat, a credit to the park's design) and went down to my section and hung out trying to get a batting practice ball. My efforts at hollering at the Sox assembled in LF were eventually rewarded when after a ball went to Pierre, my "Hey Juan, show me that arm" comment elicited a smile from the bat-boy hanging around the screen, who tossed me the next one that came.
I am perhaps slightly to blame for the loss, as I decided to take a trip around the park in the 7th during the O’s rally. Leaving my seat seemed to be the spark the O’s needed -- that or a tiring Edwin Jackson who was struggling with his command. During warm-ups in the latter innings Jackson continually bounced pitches into AJ, seemingly struggling to find the release point on his breaking stuff.
Moving around the park, the ushers are both friendly and lenient, which is a great attitude to have when even the good seats or often unoccupied in the later innings. After the 8th I moved over to behind the plate about 15 rows up (unfortunately my camera was out of juice at this point) and was promptly treated to Konerko’s bomb to tie the game. A couple of youngish looking groupies in training were repeatedly allowed to harass the Sox dugout for signed balls, flirting first past the ushers and then the Sox folks themselves.
Ah, to be a professional athlete.
Chris Sale, as you can see from the pics, has a very unorthodox delivery. I am not an expert on pitching mechanics, (never spent any time on the mound in my brief high school and college career and haven’t researched it much since) but I’m curious to see if the Sox change it up. He seems very out in front of his arm action with his lower body and it leads to deception but also a whipping action with his arm that may or may not lead to trouble down the road. Sale was consistently around 94-96 on his fastball mixing in a few off speed offerings as well. Sale was also the target of some good natured hazing as you can see.
Dayan Viciedo, is a bat speed monster, but still raw. Yea, sounds familiar. His demeanor during warm-ups was casual and seemingly lackadaisical, but I take nothing from it. He needs reps, that’s obvious.
Andruw Jones played a hell of a right field, he gets tremendous reads on balls, and even if he has lost a step he still has great instincts and solid glovework. The Sox outfield in general looked to have great chemistry, at least with Quentin at DH. After the 3rd out was recorded they would toss the ball around among themselves like little leaguers, with Alexei eventually receiving the ball as he headed into the dugout.
Food and drink at Camden is cheap, at least compared to what I’m used to at NYS and CitiField. Popcorn can be had for $3.50 and the large 24 ounce beers for 10 bucks (served classily, in the can) did me well. The vendors though are pretty damn lame. I only heard one funny line ("get your beer here, what doesn’t anybody drink in this section?") and most seemed indifferent at best.
If you are looking to do Camden on the cheap be sure to check out Travelocity and Priceline’s "mystery hotel deals" and also Stubhub. On the travel sites, you can specify the Inner Harbor area (no more than roughly a ten minute walk from the park at most) and get a heavily discounted room at a nice hotel. I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express and it was fine. Some say the area between the hotel and park is shady, but living in NYC I’ve seen my share of shady neighborhoods, this was not particularly one. Also with so many season ticket holders giving up on bad O’s teams, Stubhub beats the O’s box office handily for value. As mentioned, I paid 30 dollars for an 8th row seat in section 60 down the 3rd base line. If you want to go even cheaper you can easily move around the park in the latter innings even if your seat isn’t in a great section.
All in all Camden Yards is a fun time that I will definitely do again. The Sox lost, but it was a good experience overall.
And finally, a pic of me in great need of a shave, haircut, and a return to my college weight. Notice the awesome vintage Sox shirt thought that was, ironically enough, purchased at the Capital Hill Value Village in Seattle.