Having grown up in Massachusetts, I’m a huge Boston sports fan. Which has certainly been fun, given all the success our teams have had over the last 15 years. Baseball is Jeff’s favorite sport, so I’ve definitely gotten more into it in the past 5 years, and we went to our share of Red Sox games when they came to Yankee Stadium while we were living in Hoboken. Thankfully, our current proximity to Baltimore means we’re still living in the AL East, so for our birthdays last weekend we headed up to Camden Yards and took in a game there.
First, a note about Yankee Stadium. When we went to games there, it truly felt like being in enemy territory, even during the years when the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry wasn’t as strong. We usually sat in the bleachers, and it wasn’t uncommon for Yankees and Red Sox fans to get in a fight that resulted in someone getting thrown out. Yankee Stadium also feels a bit like a steel fortress. You get off the subway, run across the street, enter the stadium, walk through the concourse and sit in your seat. The best part, by far, is the $20 chicken finger bucket. I have been to a few games at Fenway, but the majority of my recent baseball viewing experience has been in the Bronx.
Enter Orioles Park at Camden Yards. When you walk through the gate where they check your ticket, you aren’t immediately funneled into a concourse that directs you to your seat. You’re still outside, free to roam on Eutaw Street, which is similar to Yawkey Way in Boston. Food and drink counters and souvenir shops line the street, and we roamed around a bit before we had to start finding our way to our seats.
Something I probably knew but had forgotten: Babe Ruth is from Baltimore. Being a Red Sox fan who lived in Yankee land and is now attending baseball games in Baltimore, I enjoyed the Babe Ruth through line, if you will, of my baseball experiences.
Another really cool feature of Camden Yards that stuck out to me was the existence of public spaces. There is a large patio in right field overlooking the field where you can stand against the fence, have a drink and watch the game, and you don’t need any sort of special ticket or pass in addition to your regular ticket to access it. Out behind center field, too, there’s a public area containing picnic tables interspersed with statues of Oriole greats that is just open to anyone strolling by. These areas give the ballpark a really nice relaxed, communal feel, and I like that you have options if you don’t want to remain in your seat for the entire game.
Now, I apologize if this sounds crass, but it’s the truth: the Orioles are very bad this year. For that reason, we were able to get seats just a few rows up from field level for a pretty similar price to what we were paying to sit in the bleachers at Yankee Stadium. And after taking our seats, for reasons involving a very large umbrella, we were able to move down to the front row. The front row! It was really thrilling for me to be right at the field, as it kind of gives you a whole new perspective on the game. This was the view from our seats.
We were pretty far past third base, but that didn’t really matter. I tried my hand at determining if pitches were balls or strikes, and was pretty accurate most of the time. At one point in the game, Eduardo Nuñez hit a home run to left field that cleared the wall just a few feet to the right of the foul pole, and the people in our section were the first to see that it was going to be fair. Later in the game, one of the Red Sox hit a fly ball to left field that, even though it ended up being in fair territory, I was convinced for a second was going to hit me. And frankly, I’m not sure what I would have done. For some reason I stood up in my seat, but didn’t really make an effort to move. I think Jeff would have caught it, and we would have been fine.
The final exciting part of the day: the Red Sox actually won the game! We had been on a bit of a cold streak when it came to our team winning games that we attended. I think we had been to 3 Red Sox losses, a Bruins loss and a Celtics loss prior to the win on Saturday. So that definitely felt good.
It’s easy to feel out of place and un-grounded when you move to a new city, but sports are one of the best ways to foster a spirit of community. Add that to the fact that Camden Yards is just a delightful park to watch a ball game in, and I’m sure we’ll be back for other Red Sox visits in the future.