Thursday, July 24, 2008

Deathtour~!: Camden Yards, Baltimore

Perhaps even more ambitious and stressful than traveling to 8 games in 7 cities over a 12 day period (not including the 13th day for travel) which I just completed two weeks ago, is covering 7games in 1 week in 6 cities. That’s a game a day without interruption journeying to a new city every day except for the two days I’ll be spending in New York. It’s exhausting. And I’m just watching the games. I can’t imagine the additional toll having to play through all this travel must be like. It must be worse for circus performers, although that’s neither here nor there.

I never make things easy for myself, or so it seems, and my Northeast trip begins with a long day of travel from early morning to evening, followed by a game at Camden Yards at night. I’m scheduled to take off from San Francisco at 7:25am and land in Baltimore at 5:25pm, giving me a scant 90 minutes to make it to downtown Baltimore, check in to my room and head to the game. I managed to coerce a friend into driving me to SFO at 5:30 in the morning so I don’t have to worry about lugging my bags from home to Muni to BART at God-awful early in the morning.

I have a layover in Phoenix. I don’t have to change planes but we’re told that there’s a hold on all Northeast flights due to thunderstorms. Uh-oh. A woman near me just hopes to make it to Baltimore in time for the game. Me too. I wonder if we’re thinking about the same game. I strike up a conversation with her about baseball. Turns out she’s on a baseball group tour. Coincidentally we’ll be at Camden and Yankee Stadium on the same days. She’s also going to Cooperstown. I’m jealous. And she works at Pac Bell Park, but not near my section (121). I’m really jealous.

I got to Camden at the middle of the first. It’s the first time I’ve missed the first pitch all season. I had 40 minutes to get from the airport to the hotel to the game. It just wasn’t going to happen. On the upside I missed the anthem. On the downside I missed the Canadian anthem. I also lost my Panthers hat. I was in such a rush to get to the game that I forgot I’d removed it from my head in the taxi I took from the airport to the hotel. I should also note that I nearly forgot my Passport at home this morning, remembering to grab it at the very last second as I conducted a mental check of everything I had as I was locking the front door. I also haven’t eaten anything. But the game will turn the day around.

Camden Yards is a sweet looking field. It’s the park that started the flood of new ballparks and the influence it had is visible just about everywhere. It has the brick finish of Pac Bell and New Busch. The Centerfield scoreboard reminds me of Comerica in Detroit, the bullpen in Anaheim. San Diego does the warehouse behind right field one better by using it to determine the dimensions of the field.

Out front is a statue of baseball’s most legendary figure, Babe Ruth, possibly the most famous person ever born in Baltimore. The Orioles gallery of retired numbers is also outside the main gate, which are, in fact, actual numbers with a plaque naming the player the number was retired for.

At some point Cal has to get a statue here, right? Unless he already has one at an entrance I didn’t pass.

It’s a thin crowd. Looks to be about 14,000. I bought an upper deck ticket in left field out of the sun. What’s nice about a small crowd is you can move around wherever you want almost. At least in the upper level where there are entire sections with just a few people. Just for kicks I’m going to move to a new seat every few innings.

An ad runs on the scoreboard for the Virgin Music Festival with such acts as Nine Inch Nails, Stone Temple Pilots and the Foo Fighters. Is it 1996 again? I’m pretty sure turn back the clock night is tomorrow here.

I start to move around in the middle of the third. A short trip down the stairs puts me right behind the bullpen. They have it roped off so you can’t walk right up to it. This was as close as I could get. I managed to snap this right as Brian Tallet was looking at me.

After three innings it’s 4-0 Orioles. The home team is winning! Don’t think I haven’t forgotten about the curse. For some reason this has the feeling of a really long game. I hope not. I have a 5:30 wake up call for my train to New York in the morning.

Top of the fifth and it’s time to move around again. I still haven’t eaten anything. I pass up a Crabcake sandwich in favor of a burger and fries (huge mistake, I know). It took forever and by the time I took my new seat in right field it was STILL the top of the fifth and the Orioles were making a pitching change. The score: Toronto 5, Baltimore 4.

I’m sitting in a section all by myself. I’ve always wanted to do this. The Orioles come right back in the bottom of the fifth to take a 7-6 lead. Both starting pitchers are out of the game.

They showed a blooper reel which is mandatory at every game now. It’s only worth mentioning here because half the clips were of the Giants, which, given how bad they’ve been doesn’t sound surprising, except that these clips were of the Giants’ Ball DudesTM.

Apparently this section is closed. I guess that explains why no one was sitting here. I’ve been asked to move to the next section over which is literally 15 feet to my left. It seems rather pointless and silly but that’s what I do.

After a single and a walk the Orioles make another pitching change. Alberto Castillo immediately gives up a three run homerun and relinquishes the lead to Toronto. But he won’t be credited with a loss if this score holds up. That unfortunate blemish goes to his predecessor, Francisco Cabrera, who gave up the walk. This scoring rule has always seemed completely illogical to me. If you give up the winning hit, shouldn’t you get the loss? Cabrera gets credit for holding the lead while he was in but loses the game because the next guy couldn’t get the job done. Makes no sense.

The PA guy says that Orioles fans are the best fans in baseball, but he’s lying because the wave has started, which is an automatic disqualification in the “best fans” category. Also, a USA chant. I don’t know who that’s directed at. I’m pretty sure most of the Blue Jays players are Americans.

The Orioles score a run and load the bases in the ninth but fall short. BJ Ryan earns a ‘save’ for his ‘effort’ and once again the road team prevails. At this point I’m expecting to be shot by a deranged Yankee fan from the board before tomorrow’s game.

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