Full disclosure…I worked for the Baltimore Orioles for a year in their Public Relations department. I also went to Towson University, just north of Baltimore, so I have a soft spot Orioles baseball and their plight being stuck in a division with the Yankees and Red Sox. The Phillies were my first baseball love, but I always check the O’s boxscores from the night before, and visit various Orioles related blogs to see what the fans are speculating as the point in time in the distant future when they can talk about the O’s having a worst to first finish like the Rays circa 2008.
The Orioles were a great baseball fix when I was living less than 10 minutes from the Camden Yards. Friday nights spent watching Kris Benson, Melvin Mora, Daniel Cabrera, Chris Ray and the consistently injured Brian Roberts were all the rage, especially on $5 student nights. The O’s enjoyed some success into the late 90’s, but have been in or near the basement since the Yankees and Red Sox realized they can start spending money like the Yankees and the Red Sox.
View during the 2nd inning...yea she's hot.
As a surprise from my awesome girlfriend (brownie points!!), we took a trip down to my old stomping grounds, and the main attraction was seeing the Orioles take on the LA Angels (of Anaheim?). It was a beautiful day for baseball, except for the 100+ degree temperatures, with it being closer to 120 degrees in the seats. It’s hard to believe that Camden Yards is 20 years old next year. The park is still a beautiful homage to the past great, baseball only stadiums, located downtown and walking distance from the tourist traps of the Inner Harbor. The stadium is still in great shape, and they have recently added a very local flavor, including a bar strictly serving Natty Boh (National Bohemian beer for you non-Baltimoreans). Thankfully our seats were in the shade of the overhang along the 3rd base line, and we could sit in the shade, while enjoying a professional baseball game.
Since I’m from and have been living in the REAL Baseball Heaven (Philly), I forgot what it’s like to follow a team that isn’t the major talk of the town 12 months out of the year. We easily found parking, which in a city stadium district is usually impossible, and there was no line for walk up tickets at all. We walked into the stadium and it looked as if we were either 4 hours early before the game, or that we should have been on the crew cleaning the stadium after the game. The usually packed concourse and Eutaw Street resembled the boardwalk on the jersey shore on a beautiful winter day, completely dead, but with the vendors trying their hardest to be carnival barkers and bringing in fan dollars.
Here's a side by side of Ashburn Alley at a recent Phillies game, next to a picture of it's inspiration, Eutaw Street.
The announced attendance was 15,000 fans, but there were easily fewer than 4,000 and that’s not an exaggeration. Baltimore native Mike Trout (editor's note: Millville is in NJ, not the greater Baltimore area. These damn newb bloggers!) was making his hometown debut and ended up hitting his first major league homerun, and his family, friends and other Angels fans made up 1/3 of the fans and were easily the louder of the two factions.
It was a great day trip, but reminded me of how lucky we are in Philadelphia. We have 4 major sports, 3 of which usually contend, and a fan base that rivals the passion and knowledge of any other city in the country. Baseball wise, going to Baltimore was like going to from New York City or Los Angeles and then taking a short 90 minute drive to a 3rd world country, where their beloved Orioles are malnourished, unloved and forgotten about. Unfortunately, with the terrible ownership group headed by Peter Angelos, the Orioles are destined for no better than a 3rd place finish year in and year out, and are slowly losing their fanbase to the upstart Nationals, who’s home games also are televised in Baltimore. The Nationals seem to be trying to improve, making bold (read - risky) moves, and have a plan for the future.
Unfortunately the O’s are stuck somewhere between purgatory and hell. But ownership can take pride in one fact; they can count on sellouts whenever the Red Sox, Yankees or Phillies come to town.