Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Justin's Review: Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Ballpark Design:  Still the gold standard to which all other new ballparks will forever be compared, Camden Yards did truly revolutionize the art of building baseball stadiums when it opened in 1992.  Oriole Park was the first new ballpark to go "retro", incorporating existing features into the new ballpark, creating a unique, asymmetrical field, and providing wide concourses for entertainment and lots of food.  While other ballparks may have refined and even perfected the trend that Baltimore started, no new stadium has created as defining a feature as the enormous B&O Warehouse that stretches from behind the stands in right field out to center field.  Immortalized in the mid nineties by the numbers on its side counting Ripken's iron man streak, it is probably one of the few features in any ballpark that is recognizable to even those with only a passing interest in baseball.  The baseball shaped plaques imbedded in the street outside the warehouse marking the longest homeruns at the ballpark are another nice touch, as are the large statues of each of the Orioles retired numbers outside the center field gate.  There are few places that feel so uniquely perfect for baseball.  The stadium certainly has drawbacks - it doesn't have the open concourses that most new stadiums do, so the field is not visible from many of the vending areas.  The upper deck feels significantly far back from the playing field, and the seats don't quite face home plate in many areas.  However, the inclusion of Eutaw Street out in front of the warehouse as part of the ballpark, with entertainment and food lining the way, makes up for these issues and creates a fabulous atmosphere for baseball.  A-

Scoreboard/Soundtrack: The main scoreboard has two large video screens on it, both of which displayed plenty of stats and information throughout the game.  The out of town scoreboard, located in the high right field wall, shows everything you could need to know about other games, but is a video screen, rather than the more old fashioned light boards we saw in our first two stops.  The flashy video screen contrasts a bit too much with the old fashioned feel of the rest of the ballpark, but it's nothing too drastic.  And I will never understand why they play "Thank God I'm A Country Boy" during the seventh inning stretch.  B

Food/Drink: I had a beef sandwich from the famous Boog's BBQ on Eutaw Street, an amazing fresh pretzel from Noah's (which seems to exist at every DC area sporting venue), and a beer from the local beer stand.  Each was good, and not incredibly expensive, as ballpark food goes.  Their were plenty of other options throughout the ballpark, and I was happy to see that the variety even extended to the upper deck. A-

Fans:  Despite being on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, the game was no more than half-full, and it was Little League Day, so it seemed that there were very few fans there who weren't with some sort of large group.  They weren't too loud, although there wasn't much to cheer about during the game.  It's a sad referendum on the dreadfulness of the Peter Angelos years that Baltimore, a city with a fairly good reputation for baseball fans, can't fill their beautiful stadium on one of the nicest weekends of the year.  C+

City/Stadium Neighborhood:  After the game on Sunday, we spent a good deal of time walking around Baltimore, and I have to admit, I was impressed.  I had spent very little time in the city, and much of my impression was the fairly negative impression that many people have from things like "The Wire" (which I've never seen, but have heard is very good).  However, we had a great time walking around the Inner Harbor and some of the adjacent areas.  Without a doubt, it is an area that is geared towards tourists and towards presenting the city in its most positive light - but it is remarkable how well it succeeds in doing so.  From street performers entertaining the crowds, to restaurants packed with people sitting both inside and out, and a bunch of packed bars, it just seemed like a fun area - the perfect place for a ballpark.  Certainly, Baltimore has many problems, but they've created a very impressive area downtown that only adds to the experience of going to a game.  City: B-, Neighborhood: A-

Game:  Certainly the least exciting game we've seen so far.  Baltimore lost to the Detroit Tigers 3-0.  Both starting pitchers were strong, but Edwin Jackson was nearly unhittable, giving up only 2 hits in seven shutout innings.  The Orioles never mounted a threat, and didn't look like they even had a chance.  B-

Overall:  While the game wasn't much to see, a game at Camden Yards and spending the rest of the afternoon in the Inner Harbor seems like the idyllic was to spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon.  The Orioles have gotten hundreds of accolades for their beautiful ballpark, and they deserve them all. A-

1 comment:

  1. Don't you dare dis "Thank God I'm a Country Boy." I grew up with that 7th inning stretch song. I still expect it to be played after "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" at every game I go to, no matter where I am.