There is no way subtle way to begin to tell you about my
experience at Camden Yards last night for the A’s-Orioles game.
My neighbor gave me two tickets in Sect. 23, Row C. So after
going on very short notice on Sunday, I’d actually been sitting on this pair
for a week and my wife and I decided to enjoy an incredibly beautiful, 80-plus
degree night downtown, outside in the fresh air watching the Orioles play.
The crowds are always small on weeknights — again I can see
the traffic downtown and the empty seats on TV — but there is nothing that can
prepare a real, longtime baseball fan for seeing 5,000 people in their seats at
game time for a Major League Baseball game. It’s especially painful in a
stadium as beautiful as Camden Yards.
Last night’s crowd would have been embarrassing in Montreal,
let alone Baltimore.
As usual, the Orioles lied about their attendance — they
announced the crowd at 13,862. There was NEVER a point last night where it even
resembled five digits. If my life depended on guessing the attendance, I would
generously have given them 8,000.
The game itself was again, quite sleepy, especially once
Erik Bedard got pounded by the A’s for five runs in the fourth inning. What
little environment there was evaporated by that point.
There is just no way to honestly portray in writing what a dead
environment the Orioles organization has presented for baseball without you seeing it for
The house that Cal Ripken built in a city that has loved
baseball for more than 50 years was more like a morgue than a ballpark.
And this is end-result of an amazing early-season start for the
team? They get to play baseball in front of what amounts to friends and relatives!
During the first pitching change, the organist was playing
“The Candy Man” on the organ. And I’m ALL for organ music at a
ballpark — I like the old-school stuff — but this was just awful!
I waited three years to go back to the ballpark and my worst
fears have been realized.
It’s just NOT a whole lot of fun anymore, just like I
remembered it in 2003 — but only worse!
Oh, it was fun when Casey and Drew came over to sit with me
for a while. It always fun being at the ballpark with people you like who also
like baseball. I LOVE sitting at the park and just discussing strategy and yelling for no particular reason.
I had a couple of young girls sitting to my left who yelled
once in a while — stuff like “LET’S GO ORIOLES!” — but everytime they did, a dozen fans threw them the
“stink eye” and they were embarrassed for being loud. The crowd is sometimes so quiet it’s almost spooky, kinda funereal!
It was really nice seeing Steve Geppi and Kirby Scott and
joining them for a couple of innings late in the game. Man, is Geppi a HUGE
ball fan! He talks strategy constantly. What an owner he would be!!
It was really nice that a few dozen people stopped me and
told me what a creep they think Peter Angelos is for denying me a press
credential. They also told me to keep wearing my goofy shirts and keep the
cause alive to change Baltimore baseball for the better. And I have no plans of relenting.
I want REAL baseball back — with an ownership group that gets it, with Baltimore on the jerseys, with players in the community and understanding the traditions of Baltimore and baseball and why they make all of the money they do. I want players who contribute to our city and a franchise that encourages contribution.
But, when the Orioles are losing 5-0 in the fourth inning
and there are 40,000-plus empty seats in the stadium, it really sucks.
What last night verified for me — and should for any
thinking Baltimorean — is that the Orioles, even in the midst of a VERY rare
run of prosperity and a group of quite likeable ballplayers (how can you NOT root for
Brian Roberts or Kevin Millar?), are a DEAD issue in Baltimore.
It was 80 DEGREES LAST NIGHT!!!!
WHERE WERE YOU, BALTIMORE????
Where were all of the purple-clad fans from Ravens Sundays?
Where were all of the roosts and nests and birds of prey?
Where are all of the Sunday tailgaters?
Where have all of the “real” Orioles fans gone,
the ones who previously packed that stadium even when the team stunk? The ones
from 33rd Street, oldtimers like me?
The 2007 version of the Orioles look to be pretty exciting
and certainly you DO know your way to the ballpark! And they had only lost ONE
GAME IN 10 DAYS, and STILL they only managed about 8,000 people!
On a PICTURE PERFECT NIGHT!
I would think that 99% of the Ravens’ fan base KNEW the
Orioles were on an early-season tear, winning game after game. I would also
think that they KNEW it was a beautiful night to be outside for a baseball game.
Well, at least for me, I’m giving it a chance — giving THEM
a chance, giving BASEBALL a chance — this season.
I promised my wife over the Christmas holidays that I was
going to go back to the stadium this season and use a few of the HUNDREDS OF
THOUSANDS of unused tickets this spring and summer. Any time I get a free ticket
and the weather is decent, I’m going to the ballpark. I had made that decision
LONG before Angelos and his henchman decided that I was “insignificant”
as a media member.
I’ll go until I get completely bored, mistreated again (and
that shouldn’t take long) or until it’s just ZERO fun for me. Last night wasn’t
“zero” fun — but it wasn’t the greatest night of my life, and
certainly wasn’t worth the $60 value my tickets would’ve cost me had I paid.
Again, I don’t have to drive from Hunt Valley or Abingdon or
Ellicott City — I live two blocks away from the stadium. So, it’s no hassle
for me. And it was free!
(And here is my shameless “pro-Oriole” plug for
the day: the “bring your own food to the ballpark” promotion works
very well and is long overdue. I can NEVER say they don’t do ANYTHING
fan-friendly after this one. The food policy IS fan-friendly!)
Last night, my wife and I left Oriole Park in the 8th inning. We had
skipped The Sopranos on Sunday night because of the Dice-K vs. the
Yankees on ESPD HD (yeah, we DIG hi-def baseball) and we wanted to watch it
before someone told us about Paulie Walnuts’ paranoia about Tony whacking him!
So, once we go home, we actually wound up postponing our
favorite New Jersey crime family and ended up watching the exciting final two
innings after the Aubrey Huff homer.
Nice, exciting ending — about 6,500 people left in the
stadium for it! (For an instant, when the bases were loaded, I was sorry I
Alas, the Tejada ground ball on the final pitch and the
bone-headed play of Corey Patterson and the ineptitude of Melvin Mora’s bunt
and Chris Gomez’s strikeout all made me HAPPY that I didn’t stay for it.
After two games here are my deepest thoughts about baseball
and the Orioles and the coming summer of 2007.
I know why I’m going back to the ballpark — I really missed
baseball and most of my FREE THE BIRDS storming last summer was more about just
aching for something that I really enjoyed the first 35 years of my life that I
feel was unjustly taken away from me.
And I’m giving it a chance. I’m giving baseball a chance. And it’s not costing me any money or making Angelos any money. It’s purely an opportunity cost for me. My time and baseball: is it worth it anymore to be a baseball fan?
Or should I just stick to football and wait until August?
I’m using this summer to find out.
But what I’m wondering today — aloud — is this: Why aren’t YOU coming
to the ballpark?
Just some food for thought today…
And by the way, if anyone has any freebies for 3 p.m. today, hit me up.
I’m free this afternoon and will probably be fishing for a
ticket out in front by 3 p.m. I’ll buy you a sausage and a soda outside from one of the vendors (I’ve been trying to patronize ALL of them en route into the stadium!)
I figure someone has to use all of those “unused”
Why not me?