Here with a guest post is Mr. Irrelevant Writer at Large JP Finlay. Happy 4th, everyone.
In what had been way too long, I returned to Camden Yards last night. Walking down Eutaw Street, I was struck with the offsetting combination of nostalgia and remorse.
Nostalgic about those Cal & Moose teams of the 90s, playoff runs, and trying to buy beers on fake IDs. Remorseful that despite at least a decade age difference, Camden Yards is still the far superior ballpark than the $700 million generic Nats Park.
But, such is life, things change. Camden Yards was not quite the same, and not for the better. The first thing that hit me – and this is old news so don’t knock me for it – is the Hilton in centerfield. What was an awesome view of the Bromo-Seltzer tower was replaced with an f*n hotel?!? The hotel is aesthetically pleasing enough, but it removes the Baltimore skyline, the dignified-yet-odd Bromo tower and the open-air feeling you got looking out upon Charm City. I understand, time marches on, hotels are built, and the dollar always wins.
At least I knew the centerfield backdrop had changed. What I didn’t know was Boog’s changed. For a while now my go-to order at Oriole Park has been the pork sandwich platter. The platter included a pork sandwich, and I think some combination of baked beans, chips and/or cole slaw for around $8-$10.
After 29 years and visiting about 10 Major League parks, I considered this the best food deal in baseball. No mas. Last night I shelled out $17.50 for a sandwich and a beer, no chips, no baked beans, no cole slaw. Again, I get it, but I thought Boog did too.
What is still so very right about Camden Yards will never change, regardless of Snyder-ian (or is it Angelos-ian) tactics. The sightlines are the best of any stadium I’ve ever seen. The centerfield scoreboard and outfield walls lay out just the way they should. And, even though it was the opposing team, watching Lance Berkman’s homer fly out of the stadium with the slim prospect of hitting the warehouse was a goosebump moment. If the Field of Dreams crew was to walk out of the corn fields and onto any modern field, it would be Camden Yards.
For the tobacco-inclined crowd, it’s also nice to be able to smoke a butt without feeling like a criminal. Whether it was lax enforcement or different rules, hanging out by the Warehouse bar with a cig felt like a European vacation compared to the tight-ass smoking policies enforced in DC. But that shouldn’t be a surprise.
Leaving the game, I’m not sure if I felt better about Nats Park, worse about Camden Yards, or maybe I just didn’t need that last beer during the 7th-inning stretch. Whatever it was, I wanted to let the comparisons go.
I want to be able to drive up to Baltimore for a game, enjoy the O’s, remember Cal, and root for the team of my youth. But I also want to be able to hop on the Green Line, watch Morse go BeastMode, and wait for the influx of talent the Nats have coming.
Let me unequivocally say I root for the Nats first, but now I can root for the O’s too. And I don’t want to feel torn or constantly compare the stadiums. They are different. One doesn’t have to be better. One doesn’t have to be worse. Just different.
On a rare Mid-Atlantic summer night with no humidity and a nice breeze, all seemed right in the Baltimore-DC sports axis. But that will change. Football season should kick off in just two more months.
Fuck the Ravens.