Recap - Orioles 5, Mets 4
For this visit, we are taking an overnight road-trip about 3 hours south on I-95 to 'Charm City' and to the ballpark that essentially started the movement away from the ugly, bowl style multi-sport edifices that dominated the '70s and '80s - Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Joining me on this trip is my old friend Diane and her 11 year old son Luke. It's always an added treat to bring a kid to the park, especially if it's their first time seeing it, since their excitement and enthusiasm makes it all the more special. This was a particular treat for him (and me) since the O's were hosting our beloved Mets who are in the midst of one of their best seasons in well over a decade led by what may be the best starting pitching rotation in baseball.
The 3 hour drive down was fueled with Chex Mix, Chips Ahoy, Combos, Pop Tarts, Slim Jims and Yoo-Hoo. We checked into hotel near Inner Harbor and explored the city. The area around the harbor and ballpark is nice and 'touristy' and other parts of Baltimore are noteworthy and historic but there are other parts that are .... well, not so nice (did you ever see 'The Wire'?) So, do your homework before visiting.
The Inner Harbor area is a great destination either before or after the game (although it seems to have lost some of it's charm and presence over the past few
years). We spent some time at one of the best aquariums in the country and took a speedboat ride across the harbor which offered great views of the city and allowed us to take in the wonderfully sweet aroma from the nearby Domino Sugar Factory. Afterwards, we headed a few blocks over to the house that Babe Ruth was born in (now a museum) which was interesting but nothing really too special. A few other spots worthy of a visit depending on your preferences are Fort McHenry and The Edgar Allen Poe House.
After stopping back at the hotel to put on our Mets regalia, we headed down Light Street toward the park to get an early start before first pitch, passing lots of packed eateries and watering holes along the way.
This park was built in 1992 replacing the old Memorial Stadium and was an immediate attraction drawing baseball fans from all over the country. In less than 20 years, virtually every major league team has either rebuilt or remodeled their stadiums to capture the same level of intimacy, comfort, aesthetics and viewing pleasure that Oriole Park provided. Another trend started with this park was the downtown location walkable from most tourist attractions, hotels and neighborhoods (or a short trip by light rail) rather than sitting for an hour or longer on some interstate to get there.
Twenty four years after opening, this is still considered one of the nicest and most popular sports venues in the country. It's proximity to Inner Harbor and Fells Point adds to the appeal. It's design is similar to ballparks of the early 1900's with steel columns, beams and trusses used to support the facility instead of concrete.
The majority of fans enter through the Eutaw Street in centerfield, a street that once led into downtown Baltimore. This is a bustling area between the seating area and the B&O Warehouse where fans can mingle and watch the game. Dempsey's Pub (named after former Oriole catcher Rick Dempsey) on Eutlaw Street is a nice place to kill time pre-game, as is the wonderful team store. Fans without tickets can watch game through bars on Eutaw Street. In fact, earlier this year - the Orioles played a game with no fans in attendance. This was due to the widespread protests in the city and ensuing curfew related to the death of Freddie Gray. Here's a blog of the game that day. Despite no fans being in attendance, the game was televised. The broadcasters were actually using their 'golf voices' to not disturb the players. It was so quiet, you could actually hear the players talking. At one point when Chris Davis was batting , he stepped out of the box and you could hear him fart.
The stands offer a great view of the Baltimore skyline with the main feature being the B&O Warehouse which was originally constructed in 1899. A beautiful grassy picnic and park area filled with colorful flower gardens and shady trees is located beyond center field. Statues of six Orioles members of the Baseball Hall of Fame are also here. A beatific and iconic feature of the skyline, the Bromo Seltzer Clock Tower, has been sadly obscured from the fans view since the recent construction of the Hyatt hotel.
There's plenty of displays acknowledging the great O's teams - especially the dominant clubs of late '60s early 70s and of course the great '83 team with Eddie Murray and the Iron Man himself, Cal Ripken Jr. Many sports franchises have their 'gods' (Elway, Brett, Manning, Jeter, etc.) but maybe none more so than The O's and Ripken.
The park offers a great fan and family experience. Lots of activities and attractions and loads of food varieties. The plumes of smoke and intoxicating aroma of Boog Powell's BBQ pit is constant throughout the game. Occasionally, Boog himself will show up and sling some beef. The local beer, National Bohemian, (or 'Natty Boh' as the locals call it) is a must try. Pollock Johnny's, a well know Baltimore chain, has numerous stands in the park. The Tako Koren BBQ is a nice alternative and if you like kettle chips (who the hell doesn't?) then The Chipper has lots of great varieties.
The Star Spangled Banner was written not far from where the stadium stands, so the Oriole's fans commemorate this and their love of the home team by shouting a loud "O!!!!!!" during the "Oh say does that .." spot during the anthem. Another Oriole tradition is the playing of John Denver's 1974 classic song, "Thank God I'm a Country Boy," during the seventh inning stretch right after 'Take me out to the ballgame'.
Mets rookie phenom Noah Syndergarrd was facing O's starter Ubaldo Jiminez and there were plenty of Met fans in attendance. The Mets got the scoring started early on a Daniel Murphy solo shot in the top of the 1st. Syndergarrd pitched into trouble in the bottom of the same frame loading the bases with no outs - but was able to escape without allowing a run. The O's knotted it up 3-3 on a 2 run dinger by Jonathan Schoop in the bottom of the 6th, but Wilmer Flores answered with a solo shot in the top 7th briefly giving the Mets the lead back until Adam Jones went deep in the bottom half of the inning tying the game again. So, onto the bottom of the 9th where Met reliever Carlos Torres faced seldom used, .209 hitting Henry Urrutia, who of course deposited Torres pitch over the fence for the game winning walkoff HR. The crowd was happy. Luke, I and the many Met fans in attendance weren't. But it was a fun and exciting game with plenty of long balls.
After the game (at Luke's insistence) we went back to the area where the player vehicles exit to watch the O's players drive away in their Escalades and Mercedes with a few of them acknowledging the crowd with a wave. That seemed to make Luke happy.
We are driving home in the morning. I'm looking forward to a 5 game mid-west roadtrip starting next week.
Fans - B+ - Plenty of Mets fans on hand – so I felt very welcome. Overall, Oriole fans really support their team in good and bad times
Features - B+ - The B&O Warehouse, The Bromo Seltzer Tower, The scoreboard, The great team shop
Location - A – A short walk from Inner Harbor nears loads of restaurants, bars, shops and hotels. The first of the ‘downtown’ ballparks
Food - B+ - Dempsey’s, Boog Powell’s BBQ , Kettle Chips, Natty-Boh
Game - B – A walkoff win for the O’s sunk my Mets despite a strong effort from Noah Syndergaard.
Overall Experience – A – A nice day on the harbor and aquarium and a fun night (despite the loss) at the park. Extra points for getting to share it with my little pal Luke.