W: J. Verlander
L: J. Hammel
"Catching" a ball
Oriole Park at Camden Yards
I lived in Washington D.C. for a brief time before the Nationals came to town. During those years I was having baseball withdrawal and decided to buy season tickets to the only game in town, the Baltimore Orioles. This was at a time when the team did not draw very well unless the Red Sox or Yankees were in town, and then the park was filled with a decidedly anti-Oriole population. Suffice it to say, the atmosphere at the ballpark during those years did not live up to the beauty of the stadium itself.
I am not the first to say this and for the foreseeable future I doubt I will be the last, but Camden Yards is among the best ballparks in baseball. Luckily, the team has bounced back recently and now the stands are filled with a raucous fan base of O's supporters that are worthy of an amazing ballpark experience.
Seeing as the O's were playing my Tigers, I decided to catch two games this weekend. The first day saw Justin Verlander match up against Jason Hammel. What I am about to type is in no way hyperbolic. Before the game began, I experienced a moment that I have chased my entire life. I met a group of gentlemen on Eutaw Street waiting for the gates to open. Mark and Alex Kopp were a father and son team who have been visiting both Major and Minor League ballparks together for years. Romeo was a lifelong Orioles fan who was dressed to the nines in Orioles colors. Doug Hakey was a man who grew up a Red Sox fan, but is now a firm supporter of the birds. We began to chat about the pitching duel we were all expecting to witness when Alex brought up the fact that he, Romeo and Doug were all ball chasers. Subscribe to the podcast to hear the adventures that Mark and Alex have gotten into together visiting ballparks across America.
These men dedicate their time at the ballpark to catching game balls. Whether it is during bating practice or while the game is in progress, they have an aptitude for snatching an official MLB baseball. Season ticket holders are granted access to the park 30 minutes before the general public to watch Orioles batting practice. Romeo generously gave me his ticket so I could join them in the stands and try and catch a ball.
I have been attending baseball games for over two decades and I have never caught a ball. I have come close a couple of times, but I have never laid a hand on an official game used MLB baseball. I watched in amazement as Romeo, Alex and Doug weaved in and out of the empty seats and dove after home run balls. There is truly an art to catching a ball, and I clearly am severely lacking in this department. Lo and behold I see a ball come off the bat of an Oriole directly at me. I positioned myself in what I thought was the best way to snatch it, but of course it carried over my head and I was once again going to go home empty handed.
Romeo had already caught one ball and threw it over to me so I could take a look. As we discussed tactics on how to track the ball off the bat, another ball came screaming into the stands. This time Alex came up with the ball and threw it over to Romeo and I to take a look. It was a 20th Anniversary Camden Yards baseball. These two wonderful human beings took this ball, threw it up to me and said “Welcome to Baltimore”. I may not have caught the ball myself, but because of Alex and Romeo, I now have my first official MLB baseball.
After the excitement of batting practice subsided, it was time to get some food in me. In 1993, one year after Camden Yards opened it's gates to the public, Oriole's Hall of Fame first baseman Boog Powell started slinging sandwiches at Boog's Barbecue on Eutaw Street. I enjoyed a barbecue pork sandwich while Boog himself sat a couple of feet away from me signing autographs for the kids in line.
The temperature was around 90 degrees throughout the afternoon. The Orioles staff did a magnificent job keeping the fans as cool as possible by offering free cups of ice to everyone in attendance.
Finally it was game time. The pitching duel that we are all waiting for quickly became a home run derby. In the 4th inning, the Tigers exploded going back-to-back-to-back with solo shots. Watching three home runs in a row is pretty special, but that feat was about to be topped. With the bases loaded, the reining AL MVP, Triple Crown winner and future first ballot Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera launched a 3-2 pitch over the left field wall for a grand slam. There were seven home runs in total in this game with four of them landing within 10 yards of my seat.
I was genuinely impressed with the Orioles fans and their reaction towards Cabrera. After the initial shock had worn off of the eight run fourth inning, the Orioles fans around me began to talk about how we were all watching history. I try not to be biased when discussing the Tigers, but there is no other way to talk about Miguel Cabrera than to heap an inordinate amount of praise on him. There are plenty of articles that are written about Miggy so I do not need to get into it here. All I will say is that in a moment where their home team was getting bludgeoned, Orioles fans were respectfully in awe of Cabrera picking up his bat. It is rare that you see the opposing team's fans buzzing over their pitcher giving up a grand slam, but it happened during this game.
After the game I stopped by M&S Grill in Baltimore's Inner Harbor for some Tilapia and a walk around the harbor. This is my favorite part of Baltimore and I highly recommend everyone reading this to spend some time in the harbor one day.
Camden Yards is the same amazing park it has always been. Even though the Orioles lost the game, this crowd was one of the best I have seen in this stadium. I am happy to see the fans have something to cheer for again in Baltimore.
Next up: Back for more at Camden Yards
First Pitch: Adam Anderson (Monster truck driver)
Game Time Temp: 90
First Pitch Time: 4:05 PM
National Anthem: St. Phillips Episcopal Church Choir
Seventh Inning Stretch: Thank God I'm a Country Boy
Total Pitches Thrown: 319
Total Hits: 21
Total Singles: 11
Total Doubles: 3
Total Triples: 0
Total Home Runs: 7
Total Walks: 7
Total Strike Outs: 13
Total Errors: 0
Ejections: Jason Hammel
Game Time: 3:06
Attendance: 38,945 (84.7% full)
Home Plate Umpire: Hunter Wendelstedt
Miles Traveled: 30 miles
Time in Car: 1 hour 30 minutes
Gas Money: 0.00
Sleep Time: 8 Hours
Bottles of Water: 10
Food Eaten: Tilapia from M&S Grill
Ballpark Food: Pork sandwich from Boog's Barbecue, Ice Cream helmet,
All Star Game Ballots filled out: 1
Scoreboard Cap Game: Under Crab #3
Money spent on parking: $15
Money spent on ticket: $30.00
Cost of Program: $5
Money spent on food: $37.14
Total money spent on Merchandise: $26.20
Money spent on transit: $15.00
Total Money spent at stadium: $102.20