Review by Gary
In what may have been the first ever “Name the Team Mascot” contest, early American colonists noticed that the local bird’s orange and black colors resembled the coat of arms of Lord Baltimore, an English nobleman who was the governor of this area of Maryland in the 17th century. The Baltimore Oriole was born. I mention this fun fact because this bird’s likeness is festooned all around Camden Yards, the wonderful downtown home of the Baltimore Orioles.
Built in 1992 and looking as awesome as it did when it first opened, attending a game at Camden is more of an experience when you walk around the entire ballpark during a game. We orbited Camden on this Wednesday afternoon, catching an inning or two from various sections of the park. With the team hovering in the lower quadrants of the American League East standings, the crowd seemed much smaller than the 13,408 announced, so it was easy for us to sit anywhere we wanted in the 46,000-seat stadium. There are plenty of shaded seats, essential on a day with temperatures in the 90s. While the visiting Padres were hitting 5 home runs en route to a 10-5 clinic against the young Orioles, we marveled at the beauty and aura of this town’s great stadium.
Orioles memorials, plaques, posters, markers, statues and more are found EVERYWHERE inside, outside and on the wide concourses of the O’s nest. Babe Ruth was born a block away from Camden and his statue greets you outside the center field entrance nearest his boyhood home, which is now a museum. Baltimore is proud to pay respect to the game’s greatest player, who started his career with the then minor league Baltimore Orioles. Even the seats feature the crest of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, as it’s officially known. Oriole greats are honored in a variety of ways, from 4’ monuments bearing their number to dining locales named after famous players, like Boog’s BBQ (for Boog Powell) and (Rick) Dempsey’s Restaurant. The team’s website does a fantastic job detailing the ballpark’s history.
The most visible and famous sight other than the wicked Baltimore Sun retro clock high atop the JumboTron is the B&O Warehouse, running the length of the right field wall across the now-pedestrian Eutaw Street. The warehouse building is 439 feet from home plate and was built between 1898 & 1905. The O’s website states that it is the “longest building on the East Coast at 1016' (but only 51' wide).” Any home run ball that has been knocked onto Eutaw street on the fly is marked with a bronze plaque identifying the date, distance and batter who hit it, regardless of the team he played for. The longest shot to date was hit by Ken Griffey Jr, then of the Mariners, whose 465’ shot is notated on the wall of the warehouse and is the only dinger to have hit the building on a fly.
There is no shortage of ushers at Camden Yards. They were all very friendly, helpful and graciously let us sit pretty much wherever we wanted. While this is often the case in the minor leagues, the same cannot be said for fans wanting to sit in the more expensive seats in “The Bigs”, even in the later innings when the seats were obviously not going to be occupied. The Oriole staff seemed genuinely glad that we were there in support of their team. The few Orioles fans that did attend stayed for the whole game, cheering for their Birds. Camden Yards is one of the best stadiums I ever had the pleasure of visiting and is a must-see for any baseball fan.
An interesting aspect of the ballpark is not just the very cool double-decked bullpen in left field, but the fact that the Orioles relievers sit at field level behind the right field fence. When a reliever is summoned to start warming up, he and his catcher have to walk a narrow path under the center field batters eye to the pitching area. At least they get their steps in…
For the Birds...