Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Baltimore and Washington

Last weekend, as noted on this site's facebook page, I took a baseball road trip to Baltimore and Washington to see each stadium for the first time in person. I had my father with me, and we met my cousin and his 6 year old son in Washington on Sunday.

click to read on...

Let me start in Baltimore with a few pointers since there's probably at least a few of you with plans to head down for the weekend series against the Mets this weekend.


This was a weekend series against the Red Sox, and their traveling nation, so the attendance was a bit larger than what the O's would normally get for a Saturday night game. It wasn't full, but it was at least half of the 40,000 fans wearing Red Sox shirts, jerseys, and/or hats. I'm sure it will be similar this week with the Yankees in town and next weekend with the Mets visiting.

As it was, I could see over to the local bar behind the left field side of the ballpark and it was packed with people. So was Eutaw Street along right field and center field inside the ballpark in front of the warehouse.

A few points now for the Shea Faithful making the trip.
  1. Take mass transit. You may be staying in a hotel right near the ballpark, within walking distance, and if so, this doesn't apply to you. Take mass transit. We asked at our hotel how much parking would be at the ballpark, and the guy at the desk said $30. He pointed us to a light rail station about 2 miles away that delivers you right behind the warehouse. About a 15-20 minute ride. If you're driving in, or staying outside of the ballpark area, it's worth looking for a light rail station and parking there. Trains run well past the end of a night game. It looked like lots of Sox fans were staying at a hotel near both the BWI Airport and BWI light rail station.
  2. The park opens at 5pm for a 7pm game (it may have been 5:05pm for a 7:05pm game). When I use the term "the park opens", I actually mean the gates at Eutaw Street, to allow you to watch the O's take batting practice from the outfield seats or from above the RF scoreboard. Of course, you can look at the O's team store and sample the bar and club in the Warehouse, but you're restricted to being in front of the warehouse at this point. If it's a hot afternoon or morning, those places are air conditioned. Boog's BBQ is also stationed out there.

    The rest of the ballpark opens up at 5:30, with people crowding around those gates from Eutaw Street well before then. The visiting team starts hitting around 5:30 as well. I didn't get to see what autographs by the dugout and foul lines is like once you're in the park.

Aside from the brickwork, I thought the rest of the stadium was sort of plain. It looks like it functions well. There appeared to be a very wide variety of food choices, and very wide concourses. But there was nothing fancy. I guess I expected to see more brickwork inside. Not much marking the Orioles either. Light poles outside the ballpark had color picture of the players (like outside Citi Field). Inside, it was smaller pictures of players on orange backgrounds and a Southwest Airlines logo. Not much else (aside from team stores and team store kiosks). I went out to a few seating areas and all of the views looked good. That's probably more important than the ascetics anyway. The field level and upper level were pretty much the same.

What I did find was the middle level, equal to but better than Citi Field's Excelsior Level. We actually had our tickets on this level (seating sections in the 200s). Otherwise, I never would have known what was inside the doors.

The entire 200s level concourse (I don't know the official name) was an air conditioned corridor with access to suites, seats, small bars, fancier concessions, lounging and table seating, and a whole collection of Orioles memorabilia. Did I mention the air conditioning? The door I came in at had color photos of the members of the Orioles Hall of Fame. There were plaques out on Eutaw Street for all to see, and the rest of the O's history was in here. They had something for each O's Gold Glove, MVP, and Cy Young award. Many photos. Both World Series trophies. Framed retired jerseys, a collection of each style of O's jersey since they moved there in 1954. Team photos with stats framed for each O's team. Each different O's logo plastered to the wall, including the years that it was in use. And it was open to anyone with a ticket in the 200s section or suites. It was like a giant club area, but better because it wasn't small. Think of a nice airport terminal lounge. Of course there were televisions tuned to the game and scoreboard.

The tickets we had were out in left field in a section (not sure if there were more than one) designated as "All you can eat". The seating section itself was sort of like the Left Field landing at Citi Field, except without the big restaurant and club in the way, and those in the left field seats were allowed in. The food selection wasn't great (hot dogs as the only "meal", but with soda, popcorn, nachos, and ice cream), but the price of the all you can eat was included in the ticket. Making a few trips into the air conditioning to get free sodas and ice cream cups on a hot muggy night was well worth it.

If you're picking out seats, you may want to consider the 200s level, and maybe even the All You Can Eat section.

After the game (actually, during the bottom of the 9th), it was an easy walk to the light rail, fight our way on, 4 stops, and we're back at my car ready to find the hotel.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards is worth seeing at least once in your life.

This is one of the newer parks (3rd season) in the majors, and it shows. It's of the design model that has open space, wide concourses, and concourses where you can watch the action (both on monitors at the concessions and turning around to see with your own eyes). There is a great amount of space at the outfield entrance where most patrons will enter from the Metro (subway) station, which is a block away.

There is a good right field picnic area (and a second level in right field that looked like more of the same) and some stuff for the kids (which was good for my cousin and his 6 year old son with us for the day) and lots of variety in the concessions. good sight lines and lots of Nationals memorabilia around the park (especially Strasburg #37 shirts and jerseys - I missed his debut by one game).

I don't think I ever noticed the Red Porch or 2nd deck in RF with the scoreboard watching on TV. Red Porch is a 2 level bar with a view from center field. The 2nd level RF deck (I don't know its official name) goes from just past center over to first base before the 2nd level becomes club access. I never made it up to the third deck because of time constraints.

The Nats do have some sense of Washington baseball history, honoring the Senators AL Champions with flags on top of the scoreboard and honoring a few players with statues near the outfield gate (pictured is the one for Josh Gibson of the Negro Leagues). The statues try to capture the player in motion.

They also have something similar to the Mets with posting the lineup using large baseball cards, except that in the Nats' case, it's in the outfield, out in the bright sunshine.

The game itself was a good game, pitcher's duel until Matt Caps blew the save in the top of the 9th, and after we left (both my cousin and I had good 4 1/2 hour drives home after the game), Cincinnati blew their lead in the bottom of the 9th and won it in the 10th.

Here is my full photo album from the trip.

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