A Visit to Camden Yards

Baltimore loves its Orioles (And presumably ravens too, when they are in season). This year marks the 60th anniversary of the team’s move (and name change) from St. Louis to the city, and signs are everywhere. Especially on the main streets downtown, where Southwest Airlines is paying for some street light banners…

There are also plenty of orange shirts to be seen, especially around the stadium near game time. In cities like New York or even Philadelphia, the number of pro sports teams creates divided loyalties and a diluted fan base. So there, you don’t see a city truly rallying around a team like Baltimore does with the Orioles.

I was able to attend two games during my visit

July 30, 2014: Orioles 4, Angels 3:

August 1, 2014: Orioles 2, Mariners 1:

Both games were giveaway days (a tote bag on the former, a t-shirt on the latter), but still weren’t sellouts.

At Oriole Park at Camden Yards (the official name of the stadium), they open the gates on Eutaw St. two hours before game time. The actual gates to the stadium open a half hour later. There are a couple of food places on the Eutaw St plaza, but the lines are long. Forget about Dempsey’s Brew Pub on a game day. It’s run by former Oriole Rick Dempsey (1983 WS MVP), so everyone wants to eat there. Also run by a former Oriole is Boog’s BBQ Pit (John “Boog” Powell, 1970 AL MVP). I did grab food there before Friday’s game – slices of seasoned, pit-roasted beef on a bun, with BBQ flavored kettle chips. You add your own sauce at the condiments stand nearby. Roast beef on a roll – not much to speak of.

I’ve become convinced that the main purpose of stadium food is to get you to drink more. It’s all spicy, salty, and/or greasy. You *need* a beer or something to clean out your mouth.

Speaking of beer, the local brew is National Bohemian Beer. Depending on who you ask, it’s either a Bohemian pilsner or an American Lager. Either way, it’s a Budweiser/Miller/Pabst equivalent. Not much in the way of flavor, but it does what you want a beer to do – get you drunk. Oh, and by the way, they’ll know you’re a tourist if you refer to it by its full name. Ask for a “Natty Boh” instead.

Another local specialty (or so I’ve been given to understand) available at the ballpark is “Polock Johnny’s” sausage. It normally comes piled up with the brand’s own “Works” sauce. I had one. The sauce was a rough combination of salsa and pasta sauce (a medium thickness red sauce, with peppers, onions, and presumably other vegetables), which was piled on so much that I swear I got more sauce than sausage. And it was quite spicy, too.

One other noticeable thing is that the Main Concourse of the stadium is at street level. The actual playing field is down below that. I guess it’s easier or cheaper to excavate down than build up.

It’s apparently the local custom when the National Anthem is being sung for Orioles fans to loudly shout out the “Oh” in “Oh, say does that Star Spangled Banner…”, even during an instrumental performance.

As one would expect from winning teams, both games were well-played and fast-paced. Easily under three hours each, and not just because there was no bottom of the ninth since the O’s won both. The game with the Angels actually had three “highlight reel” plays.

* A diving catch by Nick Markakis to take an extra-base hit from Chris Ianetta in the top of the 3rd.

* In the top of the 4th, a great stop and throw by Manny Machado, and a fine stretch (keeping his foot on the bag!) by Steve Pearce to get Albert Pujols.

* A leaping grab by Mike Trout to take away a sure double from Nick Markakis in the 5th.

All the highlights are here.

Before Friday’s game, a couple of the Mariners came out and went along the railing by the dugout and signed autographs. I didn’t notice any of the Orioles doing that. The game itself was a good pitcher’s duel. It took a while for people to notice just how many strikeouts Wei-Yin Chen had for the O’s. When he reached eight, I tried getting some two-strike encouragement applause going, to no avail. No more K’s after that, and he was taken out in the 8th. His pitch count was over 100, and the game was too close to take the chance.

Highlights here.

For both games, a good time was had by all. Except for the fans of the losing teams, of course.

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