Today, and for the next three days, I’m going to post a photo of a different autographed ball I got on my last road trip for The Ballpark Guide. Make sure to follow me on Twitter or bookmark this blog to see my next post.
My first post is an autographed ball of Baltimore Orioles great, and 1970 American League MVP, Boog Powell:
Powell is a two-time World Series winner, four-time All-Star and hit 339 home runs in a career that spanned from 1961 to 1977. Powell currently owns Boog’s BBQ at Camden Yards, and frequently hangs out at the popular eatery and meets fans. I got to meet him and get a photo with him during my second game in Baltimore on June 30.
Which autographed ball will I feature tomorrow? Check back and find out!
Finally, I’ll have news on my next road trip very soon.
The last stop on my 12-day, 12-game road trip was Binghamton, NY, for an Independence Day showdown between the Binghamton Mets (NY Mets) and the Portland Sea Dogs (Boston Red Sox). The game was set for 6:35 p.m., with an extensive fireworks show to be held afterward.
I arrived in town around 3 p.m. and bought my ticket. On the way back to my (illegally) parked car, I saw a coach bus from Maine stopped by the curb. I suspected it was the Sea Dogs bus, and sure enough, the door soon opened and out came the team, entering the stadium through the gate in the left field corner.
My next mission was to book a hotel; once I did, I unpacked my car and headed back to NYSEG Stadium, which has an ample parking lot that costs $3:
I made a quick stop in the empty parking lot behind the outfield fence, where a couple fans were hoping to snag a ball during batting practice:
I took a look at the scene, however, and decided that it wasn’t worth waiting here. There’s a gap of at least 10 feet between the outfield fence and a second fence, so it’d take a big shot to clear both.
Besides, the gates were opening 1.5 hours early today, so I’d be able to get in while BP was still going on.
I got my usual ticket photo …
… noting how nice this ticket is. So many MiLB tickets are plain, but I like the colors on this one.
Before I entered, I took a quick shot of the front of NYSEG Stadium …
… and the ticket office itself:
There was a lot to see once I got inside the stadium. The team had a giant hallway full of merchandise:
A number of plaques featuring former Binghamton Mets:
And a big, Mets-themed kids’ play area:
I walked quickly through the kids’ area, however, to get to a picnic section down the right field line. A guy already there said he’d just caught a BP ball, and I knew I would be able to get on the board if I stayed for a bit, too. Sure enough, less than five minutes after standing here …
… I snagged this old, Eastern League ball:
The Mets were taking BP, so a bunch of the guys were out shagging in the outfield:
I figured I might get more than one ball, but only one other came remotely near me, and I misplayed its carom off the fence and missed it.
When BP wrapped up, I took a walk around the stadium to note a few features. There’s a rail yard/line right behind the left field fence, so trains roll through on occasion:
NYSEG Stadium opened for the 1992 season, and as you can see below, it’s got a selection of suites above the seats behind home plate:
I then took a walk down to the left field corner where a few Sea Dogs were hanging around the bullpen. I watched Portland’s Chih-Hsien Chiang do some running with a trainer/interpreter type:
Then watched Stolmy Pimentel throw a bullpen session:
After his session, he got some tips from pitching coach Bob Kipper and catcher Matt Spring:
When their chat wrapped up, I headed back to the main concourse where I browsed the B-Mets’ team shop, which contained a ton of cracked bats …
… and bought an on-field warm-up jacket off the discount rack for $28.
I noticed an open grill area behind home plate, used to cook burgers, sausages and other snacks. Neat, in theory, but it made SO much smoke that flowed through the concourse around the grill:
Later, I went back to the field level to take some action shots of guys warming up. You’ll notice below that Binghamton was wearing patriotic jerseys in honor of Independence Day.
Here’s Portland starter Chris Balcom-Miller (who got royally lit up):
Mets outfielder Matt Den Dekker:
Outfielder Raul Reyes:
Starter Jeurys Familia and catcher Salomon Manriquez:
When the game was about to begin, roughly a zillion summer camp kids descended on the stadium. I was surprised to see this, as it was a holiday and an evening, but it was happening nonetheless. My seat was roughly in the middle of this pack below, and it goes without saying that I didn’t both venturing anywhere near the crowd:
Instead, I took up a spot along the third base line:
The B-Mets jumped all over Portland early, scoring seven runs in the second inning. From my vantage spot, I had a good view of the B-Mets coming around third base to score over and over again. I also was able to get a neat shot of a Bingo player jumping out of the way of a pitch:
Later in the game, I went behind home plate to take this panorama …
… then pushed my way through the gigantic crowd of kids who were milling everywhere. I made it back to the relative quiet of the right field area, where some Portland guys were hanging out in the picnic area instead of the bullpen. And they were looking dejected, I might add:
I had hoped to get a decent meal of a sausage, potatoes and corn on the cob, but they were unfortunately sold out by the midway point of the game. Instead, I opted for perogies:
I added a bit of pepper just so they weren’t looking up at me so forlornly, but they didn’t do much for me. Next time, I’ll be sure to eat earlier in the game when there’s more selection.
I took another panorama from field level in the eighth inning, when hordes of Mayflies were descending on the stadium:
And then, left before the fireworks began. A ton of people from the area had arrived in time for the end of the game, meaning getting out after the fireworks would be a lengthy process. Instead, I left right at the end of the game and got to hear (and occasionally, see) the fireworks from my hotel room.
Before my second Washington Nationals game, I decided to walk around the outside of the stadium to take in the sights. A day earlier, big crowds prompted me to quickly get into the stadium, but on July 3, I had more time.
I took a long walk around the entire stadium, and saw the team’s head office …
… a plaque recognizing baseball’s return to D.C. …
… and even the players’ parking lot:
(Range Rovers seem to be pretty popular among ball players.)
Here’s what the first base gate entrance looks like:
And here’s a panorama of the center field gate, where I entered for both games:
Today, the crowds weren’t so bad, so I was able to score a $5 ticket …
… when the gates opened, I went straight down to field level to watch some Nationals tossing:
(Sorry, this guy’s name escapes me.)
See these giant lineups?
They were for the team’s autograph signing day. Chien-Ming Wang (who I saw pitch a few days earlier on a rehab stint at Hagerstown’s Municipal Stadium), Doug Slaten, Cole Kimball and Alex Cora were all signing:
I decided to forget about standing in line for 20 minutes to get one autograph, and it soon paid off. A few minutes after I took the above photos, the previous day’s starter, Livan Hernandez, came out to sign:
I got him on a ball I snagged a few days earlier at a Minor League game:
After getting my autograph, I went down the to Lexus Presidents Seats, which run $300+ a pop. You can’t even cut through this area, so the photo below is as close as I could get:
I stopped and watched the Nats’ pregame radio broadcast in the center field concourse for a few moments …
… then went and got a loaded hot dog for lunch. I got one covered in mac and cheese and Fritos, and while it tasted OK, it was impossible to eat without making a mess:
I then took a spot up along the first base line …
… and watched Jason Marquis have an absolutely terrible outing:
This mound visit was either in the first or second inning. Ouch. Though he was 7-2 going into the game, Marquis could not make a pitch. He left after 1.1 innings after giving up eight hits, six earned runs and even making an error:
After a few innings, I went behind home plate to take this panorama:
When I write my official guide to Nationals Park for my website, you’ll get a comprehensive list of all the places to eat. But in the meantime, I have to share one cool feature I’ve never seen elsewhere:
Yep, onion and relish dispensers that you crank. (I wonder if I could convince my wife to let me get one of these for the kitchen.)
I spent a couple innings standing behind a railing in the left field corner, where I took this picture of myself:
Nationals Park has a ton of places like this. It’s nice because if your seating area is crowded, or if you just want to stand up for a while, you can go find a spot to watch:
The Pirates cruised to a 10-2 win in a game that was all over in the first inning, and after its conclusion, I took the subway back to my hotel. Waiting for my hotel’s shuttle bus, I struck up a conversation with another guy who’d been to the game. After I told him about my website, he told me how the last time he’d watched a pro game in D.C., it was in the mid 1970s. (The old Washington Senators, of course, left in 1971.)
I love unsolicited opinions. The guy then told me (disgustingly, I should add) what a horrible manager Davey Johnson is and how the day’s loss was on him. He said Johnson’s not ready to manage in the Big Leagues and how Jim Riggleman was slapped in the face by Washington management. I said I understood what he was saying, but giving the team an ultimatum can come back and bite you in the hind parts.
The guy completely flew off the handle, telling me I was wrong and how when you’re “only” making $600,000, the team’s taking advantage of you. “He showed them,” the guy said. I pointed out that now that Riggleman is making $0, the team may be having the last laugh. The guy was starting to ramp up his rebuttal (while his wife stood there and blatantly rolled her eyes) when our shuttle bus came. Saved!
With my visit to the nation’s capital now in the books, I had one last stop on my 12-game, 12-day road trip: A visit to Binghamton, NY, to watch the AA Mets.
A day after my disappointing visit to Pfitzner Stadium to watch the Potomac Nationals, I was excited to watch the parent club Washington Nationals. I was staying for three nights in Alexandria, VA, just across from D.C. When I drove through D.C. to get to my hotel, I noted how bad the traffic was. (I’m sure it was worse because of the Independence Day long weekend.) As such, I decided to take the D.C. Metro to Nationals Park instead of try driving.
As it turns out, the metro is absolutely the way to go. It’s very clearly signed, and even though I’d never attempted it before, I didn’t have any problems. Even if you’re tentative to try it, go for it — there are scores of people wearing Nationals jerseys, so if all else fails, you can just follow a group.
When I arrived at the Navy Yard stop, just a block or so away from Nationals Park, I went up to street level and this was my first sight:
Yep, George Washington, Abe Lincoln and a ton of baseball fans. Nationals Park is in the background. As you approach the stadium, you have to pass by several vendors hawking water, peanuts, Nationals apparel and the like. They offer some great deals; $1 water, for example, instead of paying $4 inside the park.
Here’s one vendor and the “licensed” merchandise:
Once I made it through the throngs of sellers, here’s what I saw:
I didn’t have my ticket, so I had to get in line. Today was a double-header AND a T-shirt giveaway, so the crowds were pretty wild. A few days earlier, the team started selling $2 tickets for the game online. “I’ll buy one later,” I thought. Of course, the tickets were sold out when I checked later, and now, standing in line, I heard people grumbling that the cheapest ticket was $45. UGH!
When I finally got to the window, I was able to get one in the upper deck for $18, which wasn’t bad, all things considered:
The entry to Nationals Park is smooth. See the guys in the yellow shirts in the image below? You pass by them to have your bags checked, then you go through the gates in the foreground to get into the stadium. Some stadiums try to do both in one shot, and it ends up being chaotic:
As soon as you enter the gates, you find yourself in a huge, open pavilion with statues very reminiscent of those in Comerica Park:
Just behind the statues is the Red Porch, which is an awesome bar with two levels of seating. Here’s a closer look:
I immediately passed through the pavilion to take a look at the field. As I expected, there was no batting practice today, as it was a double-header:
In desperate need of some shade or air conditioning, I checked out a couple of the stadium’s team shops, which are nice. There are a ton of jerseys, memorabilia and even TVs to watch what’s happening on the stadium scoreboard:
After I cooled off for a bit, I started to make a big lap around the main-level concourse, noting all the impressive choices for food. Some that stood out were gelato:
Taste of the Majors, which offered food from different regions:
And even a place for some healthy food:
After touring the concourse, I went down the field level but there wasn’t much going on:
So, despite the heat, I went back up to the concourse and kept walking around. I found a pretty cool kids’ play area:
Indoor batting cage:
And a Build-a-Bear station (cool if you have kids; probably not on your to-see list if you’re with a bunch of buddies):
Beside the batting cage, there was a speed throwing station. Both were neat, though I’d suggest watching a couple rounds of someone else batting if you plan to step into the cage. When I watched, the machine was horribly uncalibrated; one guy had three pitches sail over his head, another guy was beaned on the arm and yet another had one of his 10 pitches go through the strike zone. It all made for a rather interesting spectacle. And the poor guy running the cage just stood there shaking his head.
Eventually, some players came out to stretch, so I went back down to field level. Here’s Pittsburgh’s starting pitcher James McDonald stretching:
And here’s Washington’s Ian Desmond signing autographs:
It’s hard to believe, but the day’s game between Pittsburgh and Washington featured two clubs with decent records. Both were around .500, and trying to climb higher; it’s a big departure from where these teams usually are.
That said, how is Washington a .500 team? As I scanned through its batting order, absolutely nothing positive jumped out:
Roger Bernadina: .265
Jayson Werth: .226
Ryan Zimmerman: .228
Laynce Nix: .278
Michael Morse: .302 (Finally, a .300 hitter!)
Danny Espinosa: .239
Ivan Rodriguez: .216
Ian Desmond: .222
Livan Hernandez: .154 (As the pitcher, he gets a bye.)
Anyway, awful! But Kudos to this team for somehow getting things done on the field.
After watching the on-field happenings for a while, I went up to the 200 level to see the sights. There’s a neat eating area with comfy chairs, turf and some tents:
When the game began, I fought my way through the crowds to get waaaay up behind home plate for this panorama:
Then, I headed toward the left field corner to snap this panorama:
(Yes, lots of panoramas today. Click on them to get a larger version, if you’re interested.)
I couldn’t help but notice that for just $30, you can get yourself a cheese pizza:
Gotta love ballpark food prices, huh?
Speaking of food, it was about time to find something to eat. I passed up the opportunity at that $30 cheese pizza and returned to the Taste of the Majors concession stand. I asked the vendor which food he recommended, and he suggested chicken fingers. Hmm, that wasn’t really what I had in mind. Chicken fingers are, you know, chicken fingers. He said the New York pastrami sandwich was a popular option, so I went with it:
And as good as it looks, it honestly wasn’t all that great. The pastrami didn’t have much flavor, but live and learn. I’m still glad I tried it.
While I was up high in that left field corner, I took the following picture of the center field gate and pavilion area to show a few neat features. Fans enter from the “10 o’clock” area, which is hidden behind the Jayson Werth billboard. The team shop is back there, too, and you can see some concession stands, the MASN broadcast booth, the Red Porch, nice, wide concourses and a cool vegetation pattern on top of the concession stands at the lower left:
Nationals Park has a great scoreboard, too. It’s extremely thorough and gives you all the info you need:
If you’re not focusing on the stadium itself, you’ve got an amazing view from the upper deck of Nationals Park. Recognize these landmarks?
Yep, it’s the United States Capitol building and the Washington Monument.
After touring the stadium a little more, I succumbed to my sweet tooth’s cravings and bought some Dippin’ Dots. I’d never tried these in the past, and they are dangerously good:
After my snack, I climbed up to the Red Porch, which is THE place to be at Nationals Park. It’s crazy crowded, though, so you have to get there early to get a spot. Here’s a panorama from up here:
I spent the next few innings up here, down the first base line:
From here, I had a good view of not only the whole stadium, but also of a couple of my favorite players — Canadian Matt Stairs and future HOFer Ivan Rodriguez:
The Pirates won game 1 and Washington took game 2, and I had a great time at the double-header. A day later, I’d be back in D.C. for one more game on my road trip ….
You know how sometimes, you just get a good feeling about something? That was the case with the Potomac Nationals on this trip. For some unknown reason, I was really looking forward to taking in a Nats game at G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium on July 1.
I wish I could say the Nationals game lived up to my hopes, but I honestly have to report it fell short. Now, I don’t think I had unrealistic expectations, but I didn’t see a lot here that would excite people visiting on a baseball road trip.
When I arrived at the facility in Woodbridge, VA, I paid $5 for parking. Paying for parking is one thing, but paying more for parking at an A-class game than at a AAA game seems a little ridiculous. (And I think I paid $8 to park a block from Progressive Field in Cleveland last summer.) To make matters worse, the entire complex is enormous, so you’re not parked remotely near the ballpark. That said, Pfitzner Stadium (as it’s most commonly known) is smack dab in the middle of a really cool baseball site. It’s not as neat as the Ripken facility in Aberdeen, MD, but it’s similar in many ways. There are three other ball diamonds around the MiLB one, so it’s fun to watch other teams in action while waiting for the gates to open.
Here’s the front of the ballpark:
I bought my ticket …
… and started to walk down the first base line. One really cool feature here is how Potomac’s batting cage is just a few yards inside a chain-link fence. I watched one of the Nationals take some pre-game cuts:
When I got to the area beyond the outfield fence, an un-fan-friendly sign greeted me:
This is the first time I’ve ever seen such a fence at a Minor League facility. Some areas behind fences are fenced off, but I’ve never seen a sign telling fans not to walk through the area. There’s nothing much back there except for a path …
… so I assume the team just doesn’t want fans picking up balls. (A few innings into the game, a player popped a foul over the fence behind the third base bleachers, and team staff bolted out the gate to grab the ball before any fans could. Lame.)
That said, I did manage to find a ball just beyond the picnic area in right field (not in the verboten zone, thank you), and it had gone three rounds with a lawnmower and lost:
Still, it was a ball, and was the first “practice ball” I’ve added to my collection. I’ve only seen one of these in the past, though I imagine lots of teams use them.
When the gates opened, I went into the ballpark and found a small common area. There are several picnic tables to grab a snack before the game. I suppose the downside to this area is you can’t see the field:
I browsed through Potomac’s wall of fame area, and was amazed at the impressive list of alumni. Now, the Potomac Nationals have only been around since 2005, but several teams have called the area home dating back to 1978. A few of the guys to come through here include Albert Pujols, Barry Bonds, Andy Pettitte, Bobby Bonilla, Jorge Posada, Magglio Ordonez and Joey Votto. Not bad, right?
A quick look at the concession stand’s menu wasn’t too inspiring. Most ballparks have some sort of food item that sets them apart, but that’s not the case here. Though, this might be the first time I’ve seen Red Bull on a ballpark menu. For $6, no less. Pardon?
The ballpark’s souvenir store is small, but has great prices. In fact, the deals were as good as I’ve seen anywhere. The team’s New Era, on-field caps are just $20, for instance. And shirts and so on don’t require you to sign over your firstborn. Here’s the outside of the store …
… and here’s the inside:
A super neat feature behind the first base line is the team’s booster club. During my visit (and likely all the time), the club was selling game-used, cracked, autographed bats for $15. Like the team store, this is the best price I’ve ever seen. There was a giant selection …
… but when I went to buy one in the second inning, the kiosk was gone. So, if you’re interested in something from the booster club, do it early, I guess.
I then walked down the third base line and watched the Winston-Salem Dash stretch …
… and warm up. Here’s starting pitcher Joseph Serafin throwing:
For a small park, Pfitzner Stadium has a decent scoreboard:
Here’s a look at the whole facility from the third base line bleachers:
Take a look at the home dugout. I think it’s the smallest I’ve ever seen; check how there are two rows of benches:
When the game began, I took a spot in the bleachers down the first base line and had the whole section to myself:
Between innings, I climbed up to the top of the section and something white caught my eye:
Yep, a batting practice ball stuck in the bleachers. Typically, you’d think balls hit here would fall through, but this one didn’t. And except for a few flakes of dirt, it was in perfect condition:
One of the best things about small parks is how close you can get to the players. Here, the bullpens are down the lines, and Potomac’s relievers were as fan friendly as I’ve seen. There seemed to be a great rapport between fans and players, which was neat to see. I watched part of an inning from here …
… then took another walk through the ballpark. I noticed a board tracking the progress of former Potomac players:
Another neat feature about Pfitzner Stadium is the standing room gate right beside the home dugout. If you can get a spot here, you’re extremely close to the field and have a perfect view:
Here’s a panorama of the field from behind home plate …
… in front of a modest pressbox area:
Don’t get me wrong, this ballpark isn’t horrible. It’s just not that exciting. The design is uninspiring, the atmosphere the night I visited was non existent (though I realize that can change from game to game) and the expensive parking, inability to go behind the fence and bland menu just left me with a “blah” feeling. I can see it being good if you’re a fan of the team, but if you’re just an average baseball fan, there might not be much here to excite you.
Because I’ve already blogged about Camden Yards, I’m not going to go overboard with this post. That said, my second Baltimore Orioles game in as many days was great. I really like this ballpark. It’s a ballpark, not a stadium, so it’s got a great feel to it. While it’s huge, it still has a “ballpark-y” feel, which is the type of place I enjoy.
I bought another $10 ticket before the game (Actually, I bought this one at the time of my 11 a.m. tour earlier in the day so that I wouldn’t have to wait in line at the ticket office prior to the gates opening):
Today was J.J. Hardy T-shirt giveaway day, so the lines outside the stadium were longer than usual. That said, I was still fairly close to the start of the line, so I had no problem getting a T-shirt:
I was glad to get into the ballpark today to find some shade. I’d been walking around the inner harbor for the last several hours, and it was extremely hot. Instead of spending time in the outfield during BP, I decided to go get a cold drink and hang out in the shade. On my way to one of the lounges off Eutaw Street, I saw an autograph booth. The three guys signing in about 30 minutes were Ron Hansen, Tippy Martinez and Jimmy Williams:
As much as I love autographs, I wasn’t too familiar with these guys, so I decided to forgo the line. After cooling off with a drink (and eating two cups of ice), I went down to the first base side and watched BP from up in the shade:
I then made a long, slow lap of the stadium and made it all the way back to Boog’s BBQ on Eutaw Street. A day earlier, I had a great BBQ sandwich for dinner, so I was going to repeat the process again. But as soon as I got into line, I saw Boog Powell was signing autographs for fans! He often does, from what I’ve read, so I asked him to sign a ball and I got a photo with him:
(I’ll photograph and blog about the ball at a later date. His autograph is a cool addition to a number of neat souvenirs I’ve picked up during my travels for The Ballpark Guide.)
This time, I got the pork sandwich, and while I preferred yesterday’s turkey, it was still good:
I ate my sandwich up in the stands behind right field, which allowed me to take a photo of the scene down Eutaw Street. I think the following picture gives you a good idea of the area:
After eating, I moved over to the upper deck down the third base line, where I could keep an eye on the out-of-town scoreboard to see how the Jays were doing. Losing to the Pirates? What’s the world coming to?
I spent the game’s late innings in center field, with this view …
… then went behind home plate and got this action photo of Alfredo Simon dealing to David Freese:
Despite a comeback attempt by the O’s, they lost again and I went back to my hotel to enjoy the view once again. Remember how I said the cleaning staff worked until at least 3 a.m. after the previous night’s game? Well, they were (obviously) at it again, and this time I got a photo:
The following morning, I’d head for the D.C. area, but not without a bit of sadness. My two days in Baltimore were even better and I’d expected — a great ballpark, amazing sights and lots to see and do. I’ll definitely be back.
I’ve wanted to go to Camden Yards for a game since I watched the 1993 All-Star Game and saw what a perfect-looking ballpark it was.
And on June 29, after driving up from Salisbury, MD, I was here for my first Baltimore Orioles game.
A lot can be said about Orioles Park at Camden Yards (the ballpark’s official name). It set the standard for present-day facilities, giving fans modern amenities and conveniences with a tip of the hat to the parks of yesteryear. Instead of building a giant cement mound and filling it with seats, the architects on this project took time to use the area’s existing environment and features of some of the game’s greatest historical parks to build Camden Yards.
I love staying at hotels with views of the ballpark I’m visiting. I did so last fall during my trip to see the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. For this trip, I booked two nights in a field-facing room in the Hilton Baltimore, which looks directly out onto the field.
After checking in around 2 p.m., I went up to my room, looked out the window and saw that some guys were already throwing:
And here’s a panorama looking out from my 17th floor room:
I knew I could get into the ballpark at 5 p.m. for the night’s game against St. Louis, so that gave me a few hours to explore before getting in. I took a few prerequisite shots in the area of Eutaw Street. Here are the Sports Legends Museum and the famous Babe Ruth statue:
I also looked around the pavilion at the end of the Eutaw Street, which features statues of the Orioles retired numbers. Here’s the #8 of Cal Ripken, Jr.:
I bought a ticket in the upper deck …
… and set out to walk around the ballpark:
After touring around, I went down to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor area to check it out. There are a ton of sights to see in this area, which is a big tourist spot. No visit to Baltimore is complete without a stop here, but make sure you book yourself considerable time.
Back at the Eutaw Street gate, there was a small group of people waiting for the 5 p.m. gate opening:
The line moved quickly, and soon I was in.
I took an immediate right turn and went down into the center field stands for batting practice. Normally, I’d spend the entire BP in this area hoping to catch a ball. But I’ve gathered 25 balls, give or take, so far this trip and I felt like walking around more to see the sights. Before heading back to Eutaw Street, I took this panorama during BP:
Eutaw Street is full of things to see and do. There’s the Orioles team shop, numerous concession stands and historical information such as the Orioles Hall of Fame:
There are a couple key concession spot to hit — Boog’s BBQ and the Jack Daniels stand. Look at the chickens grilling at the latter:
My next stop was the flag court, which is full of fans both during BP and once the game begins:
I also took a quick walk through the very expensive team shop:
Once the inner gates opened 30 minutes after Eutaw Street opened up, I decided to go down to field level and watch the Cardinals hit from close up. Here are a couple guys who were watching:
Of course, that’s St. Louis hitting coach Mark McGwire and manager Tony La Russa. I’d really hoped to see Albert Pujols on this trip, but since he was injured a few weeks back, he wasn’t around. It was neat, however, to see the Major Leaguers up close. Here’s Skip Schumaker:
After BP wrapped up, I went back into the concourse and saw a number of neat things, such as a silent auction:
Lots of historical information (I’m too young to remember when the O’s were actually good, but they do have quite a history):
And a signed Michael Jordan Birmingham Barons jersey available for a cool $2,500:
I went back to the stands around 6:30 p.m. to watch some guys warm up. Here’s Vladimir Guerrero:
And Derrek Lee and J.J. Hardy:
Before first pitch, I found a spot along the wall in the flag court and took up a spot with this view:
Then, an inning later, went up into the stands behind the right field foul pole after I’d made a quick stop at Boog’s BBQ to get a BBQ turkey sandwich:
It was amazing. I cringe at spending $10 on a sandwich, but it did contain lots of meat and the taste was great. You can add onions, sauces and horseradish, too. The horseradish, I soon found out, is killer.
After eating, I went back into the concourse took walk around a bit. Here, I saw the banners for the O’s six HOFers — Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Earl Weaver, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken, Jr.:
I then climbed to the upper deck and saw M&T Bank Field, home of the Ravens …
… and the O’s player parking lot:
With another climb, I was up to the top of the upper deck in the right field corner, where I had this view:
Check out the scoreboard. Isn’t it awesome? It’s got a modern screen but the use of the iron beams gives it a historic feel:
I then went closer to the home plate area to take this panorama:
Eventually, I made my way to center field, where both teams’ bullpens are located. From up high, here’s the Cardinals bullpen:
And remember when I was in the flag court earlier? Here’s a bird’s-eye view of it:
Soon, I climbed back down to the main level. It’s a good thing I do all this walking on my baseball road trips to help offset all the ballpark food I eat. I sat along the first base line with this view:
And watched a masterful performance by Cards starter Chris Carpenter:
Carpenter went the distance, throwing 131 pitches to get the 5-1 win. The final pitch hit 95 mph on the gun, too. Here’s his pitch count:
After the game, while other people were stuck in traffic or waiting for public transit, I walked about one minute and was back in my hotel. When I got up to my room, I took a panorama of the ballpark:
A while later, some of the lighting was cut out and here’s what the scene was:
Here’s something that may interest only me, but is worth sharing. We go to games, eat, make a mess, then leave. We don’t really think about how much work goes into cleaning up the ballpark, but we expect it to be clean when we arrive the following day. That said, I watched Camden Yards on and off through the evening, and despite the lights being dimmed, there was plenty of work that went on. I watched the grounds crew watering the infield and the cleaning staff meticulously going row by row to pick up garbage, then pressure wash the entire stadium.
I finally went to bed around 3 a.m., and the crew was still at work! I don’t know how long they stayed, but that was a full five hour after the conclusion of the game. I’m impressed. We should all be thankful about how much hard work goes into the upkeep of such a great facility.