Ballpark of the Week: Oriole Park at Camden Yards (Home of the Baltimore Orioles)
Tonight, the American League Central Division Champion Detroit Tigers start their fourth consecutive American League Divisional Series with a match-up against the AL East champion Baltimore Orioles. Since the Tigers are my hometown team, it’s not hard to figure out where my rooting interests lie. And while this season was grueling, with the Tigs not clinching the division until the season’s last day, we in Detroit are feeling pretty good about our chances.
I will admit, however, that I regularly root for the Orioles in their division. Like the rest of the world not living in the five boroughs, I despise the Yankees. Once I had a sympathy for the Red Sox and their unbeatable curse, and cheered joyously as they won that memorable title in 2003. That dissipated quickly as Sox fans became unbearable in the years since, and I now only root for them when they play the Yankees. If Tampa
Devil Ray fans don’t exist, why would I acknowledge their team? And the Blue Jays…well, I don’t really dislike them, but they have to make the playoffs for me to root for them. That makes the Orioles the lesser of five evils, I guess.
Those days are over. Tigers in
That said, I was able to visit Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 2012, My wife had a work conference in Washington DC in June, including a couple of evening events, so I used the opportunity to rent a car and drive north to catch a game. Particularly fortuitous for me, my wife’s uncle and cousins – Maryland natives – were happy to meet me at the game and make it a night at the ballpark!
The drive in was less than ideal – while DC and Baltimore may be separated by few miles (40 or so), the drive time between the two is a bit on the slow side. I’m sure natives to the area are well aware of this – unfortunately, I was not. When I did arrive in Baltimore, however, I was pleased to find how easy it was to get to the park! There is ample parking, thanks to a nicely developed area of hotels and convention centers nearby, and was parked and ready to go in no time.
Driving in from DC, I noticed the large crowd of people in Orioles gear between a statue of Brooks Robinson and a few bars names Pickles and Sliders across the street from the stadium. I wandered over for a bite and to catch some local flavor – and I did. In particular, I’ve developed a taste for ‘Baltimore Wings,’ which are the local take on traditional Buffalo Wings. Baked in butter and rubbed with Old Bay seasoning, they may be my favorite wings in the world now. People hung out and talked baseball, but I snapped a pic in front of the Brooks Robinson statue, and headed over to the large main gates to get a feel for the place.
Upon entering the park from Camden and Eutaw, the first thing you notice is how the stadium feels like an older park than it really is. This is, of course, by design. After years of demolishing our baseball cathedrals in favor of bland, round, all purpose stadiums (like Three Rivers or Veterans stadiums), Oriole Park at Camden Yards was a much heralded return to the classics. Set in an actual part of the city (as opposed to far-flung suburbs), built with brick and iron and as a part of it’s surroundings (the warehouse overlooking the park from center to right field). It revolutionized ballparks, and while it has borne many imitators (including Comerica Park here in Detroit), it is still very unique.
Strolling along the bricks above the outfield, I had to stop into the famous Boog’s BBQ. Boog Powell, slugging hero of those late 60s and early 70s Oriole teams, has a BBQ stand/tent here, and it came highly recommended. An additional treat – Boog was there that day, and I got to shake his hand, get an autograph, and chat for a few minutes with a Baltimore legend! And the BBQ was delicious too.
Our seats gave us a great view of the park – it really is a beautiful sight. I was there during an interleague matchup, and many fans from Pittsburgh were there as well, so there was a good spirited taunting going on in the stands. A high scoring game, we were able to see everything clearly, and despite it’s throwback style, Oriole Park has plenty of modern game-watching amenities: great scoreboards, clear public address, ball, strike and pitch speed sensors throughout.
Steve Pearce and Mark Reynolds both hit shots our way, and we even thought we might have a chance at catching Reynolds. The O’s scored early and often, and the game was fun for the hometown fans. At one point, I headed up to the picnic tables in centerfield to grab some crab dip and waffle fries – a local favorite – and found out OPaCY is one of the few ballparks in which you can bring your own food and drink (provided the drinks are sealed)! A walk down Eutaw was particularly enjoyable, as you watch the game on the one side, and check out the bars and souvenir stands inside the warehouse on the other.
Now, it did take me almost two and a half hours to get back to DC after the game, but that didn’t dampen my fun. Oriole Park at Camden Yards is a beautiful park, and another must see for baseball fans!
Dan’s scale (1-10): 8.7
Below are my stats. I’ll post them for every park I’ve visited. I include the big details, as well as who I visited with. Lastly, I am a huge fan of throwback jerseys, and for every stadium I visit, I buy one of a player from that organization I admired as a kid, from watching them or reading about them. So for every one, I will also list the throwbacks I’ve purchased for each.
Date: Thursday, June 14, 2012, 7:06PM
Seat: Section 82, Row 4, Seats 13 – 17
Ticket Cost: $34.00 each (purchased from team site)
Went with: Phil, Kenny, Ashley & Tara Daniels
Time of Game: 3:06
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Pirates 0 0 0 0 3 2 0 0 1 6 10 0
Orioles 4 0 1 5 0 1 0 1 X 12 16 0
Winning Pitcher: Tommy Hunter (3-3)
Losing Pitcher: Erik Bedard (4-7)
Jersey: Brooks Robinson (1966)