Review 4 of our Ballpark Tour: Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, MD
Oriole Park at Camden Yards has a special place in my heart. (Be prepared for a slightly bias review). As a child my father was able to get tickets to Oriole games through his work, so he, my brother and I would frequent the ballpark to see the Orioles compete. Even though for the past 15 years the Orioles have been one of the most laughable teams in the major leagues, they have still been the team I rooted for. However, with the resurgence of talent at the plate and on the field, as well as mastery in the dugout, my brother, Quintus Dellius and I bought partial season tickets for the 2013 season. With 13 games this season in the Upper Box, I have frequented the Yard more often this year than all others combined.
On this occasion Quintus was unable to attend, so Daniel California and myself ventured down to Baltimore for a Sunday afternoon game in which the Orioles faced off against the Colorado Rockies in an inter-league rubber match. As it happened, Thurston Howell and his compatriots were also in attendance, so it was bound to be an enjoyable experience.
1. Accessibility and Parking
Because Oriole Park is located within the city itself, getting to the park itself is a little intimidating. For some, driving in a city is a very stressful situation filled with one-way streets and congestion. Baltimore is no exception. However, with a decent set of directions or a GPS, the drive in is very simple and straight forward. Parking is a much more interesting situation. There are many lots provided by Camden Yards, however depending on what game you attend and when you purchase your parking pass, you may have to make sure you pack your sneakers. When just doing a little research there was parking available for around $10. However, there are many alternatives to parking in these lots. One could also park in the many hotel lots surrounding the Yard in which event parking is usually priced at $20 for the closest garages. There is also the option of the Light Rail, which is the Baltimore train system. This would allow you to park at a much farther lot for much cheaper and just catch the train for a grand total of $3.20 round trip. I personally have never ventured on the Light Rail, even though the station is literally right next to the stadium.
Every time I take the hour and a half trip down to Baltimore to see a game, I park in the Sheraton garage and just pony up the bills for the convenient three block walk to the stadium along Conway St. This allows me to get my $4 bag of peanuts at the street vendor outside the park and take in the parade of fans cascading into the Yard. Once the game ends, the ease of driving through the city instantaneously becomes a menagerie of drunken fools. This makes driving much more stressful and complicated. Couple this with the increased congestion and you have yourself a downright crap show. And the fun is not over, in order to get on route 83 N out of the city one must find the hidden on ramp in the middle of the not-so-nice end of town. All things considered, the Orioles and the city of Baltimore have made Camden Yards very accessible to fans through many different avenues. However, I do not enjoy the fact that I have to sit through a game without an arm and leg due to the fee for parking, as well as having to fight through a throng of cars and fans to exit the city. 5.5/10
As a “season” ticket holder, Quintus and myself, received our bundle of tickets at the beginning of the season. These were your typical ticket with Orioles star Adam Jones on every one. Our seats are located in the Upper Box, Section 340, Row 3, Seats 1 & 2. Because of the design of the ballpark, there is truly not a bad seat in the house. Our seats, however, are just fantastic, especially for the special price of $20 a game. A perk of being a season ticket holder, being that the seats are normally listed for $26. Our seats are located almost directly above the commentators booth, allowing us to have a great view of the game. In the middle of the 4th inning, just as the woman in front of us opened her umbrella directly obstructing our view of the pitcher and home plate, we moved over to the Left Field Upper Reserve to join with the rest of the group. I have personally never sat in the outfield, (the tickets my father would get were always on the third base side), so I was very curious to see what the view would be like from these new seats. The game was unusually empty as far as attendance was concerned so we were able to sit right with Thurston and the others. These seats were still fantastic even though they were much farther from the action. Overall, I do not have much to complain about as far as the tickets and seats are concerned. 9/10
3. Beer and Hot Dogs
Camden Yards is home to a professional baseball team. I wanted to make this statement to put this next section into perspective. The prices of concessions are vastly inflated compared to previous parks we have attended, especially Beer and Hot Dogs. Camden Yards offers a great variety of beers. Of course you have your classics, Budweiser, Bud Light, Bud LIght Lime, Miller Light, Coors Light and Natural Bohemian A.K.A. Natty Boh (Baltimore’s local brew) are all on draft at $7.75 for a 20 oz. In addition to these you have craft brews available including Third Shift, Blue Moon, Blue Moon Agave Nectar Ale, Redd’s Apple Ale, Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy, Guiness, Goosehead, Flying Dog microbrews and IPAs, and Heavy Sea’s IPAs. Because these beers have flavor, they will run you $8.50 for a 16 oz. draft or 16 oz. can. Stella and Shock Top are also available (only in 16 oz. cans) for $8.50. If you are either too lazy to get up or too drunk, there are wandering beer vendors that will peddle their Miller Light, Coors Light, Bud Light and Natty Boh’s in 16 oz. cans for $8 bucks a piece. All beer transactions are limited to two per person per transaction. Beer lines will occasionally get long, especially on the lower concourse before the game and in-between innings. All alcohol sales stop in the eighth inning or three and a half hours after the scheduled start time for the game. I have personally never complained about the selection of beers at the Yard. There are plenty of viable options even for those in the “nose-bleeds”, that are not your typical light beers. Hot Dogs are another thing all together. For a standard Esskay ballpark frank you will have to shell out a hard $5.50. This is very ridiculous and thus neither Daniel nor I bought one. I’m sure it tasted exactly like a hot dog would normally. Except, I can normally purchase multiple packs of hot dogs for less than that monstrous up-charge. Overall, there is a great selection of beer available to the fans, even though they are outrageously expensive, but the real kicker is the $5.50 hot dog. 6.5/10
4. Architecture and Design
Oriole Park at Camden Yards was constructed in 1992, replacing the historic Memorial Stadium. Oriole Park was the first park constructed that was considered “retro-classic” in its design. This design is much more fan friendly and increased the average attendance from around 25,000 fans at Memorial Stadium to approximately to 40,000 fans at Camden Yards. Because of the massive success of the park and its design, Oriole Park became the template for all new modern parks being constructed, as well as renovations to those already existing. Oriole Park is located on the old Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) railroad station. The B&O warehouse is the only thing left of the railroad, and is now the home of the box office, Majestic Team Store, Dempsey’s Brewpub, The Art of the Game (Memorabilia Shop), the teams front offices, as well as a private club for the team. The warehouse is the biggest brick building on the East Coast and is located on Eutaw Street, a street that is closed off to public traffic. Eutaw Street runs along the right field side of the park and is the home to many concession areas including Boog’s Barbeque. Eutaw Street is also one of the coolest features that the park has to offer. As you walk along the street towards the entrance to the lower concourse you begin to see small plaques by your feet of baseballs. These plaques commemorate every home run that has been hit and landed on the street. For a fan that has had so much of my own history at Camden Yards, it is awesome to see that the organization really takes pride in the history of the team and the park itself. Each ball has the player’s name that hit the home run, the team they play(ed) for and the date the home run was hit. Oriole Park opens out to the Baltimore skyline, which has been slightly obstructed by the construction of the Hilton Hotel in 2009. Unfortunately this 757-room hotel obstructs the view of arguable the most memorable sight at the Yard, the Bromo Seltzer Tower.
Even though this addition to the skyline slightly diminishes some of the sentimental value of being at the game, the park is one of the most beautiful places to spend an afternoon, watching a great game. 10/10
Baltimore Oriole fans have a fairly good reputation throughout the league. If there is fan sitting near you of the opposing team (even Yankee fans), 9 out of 10 times they will get treated very well. However, when the Orioles are losing in a close game and fans of the opposing team are cheering loudly or just making a scene in general, then they will start to receive the stereotypical Baltimore treatment. The fans in Baltimore love the Orioles. However, because of their marred past and cheap ticket prices, you get a lot of casual fans or just fans of baseball, not the Orioles. This does not detract any from the experience of being at an O’s game. The “Oh” in the National anthem will always be shouted, and we will always thank God we are Country Boys (especially during the 7th inning stretch). Most of the Orioles have entertaining and fitting walk-up music playing before each of their at-bats, and you have your general PA system that announces players, and the musical selections were appropriate and entertaining. In general, Oriole Park is a great place to watch a game no matter if you like the O’s or not, or even if you don’t like baseball at all. The staff is very friendly and if you so choose will engage in intelligent conversation, while also supplying all of the expected treatment you would expect at a ballpark. 8/10
Baltimore is most famous for their crabs. Maryland Blue in particular, and Camden Yards takes advantage of this. There are Flying Dog kiosks on both the upper and lower concourse that serve crab dip waffle fries ($10) or crab cake sandwiches ($10). However, there is a plethora of other options for food around the ballpark. The Yard offers the usual ballpark fare, chicken fingers and fries, cheeseburger and fries (both for $10), pizza ($5 per slice) and your overpriced hot dog, but with some added surprises. These included Roma sausages with all the fixens ($7), Turkey burgers and fries ($10) as well as Old Bay seasoning for your fries and chicken. However, if you want to venture away from the classic fare you can indulge in Boog’s Barbeque, Dempsey’s Brewpub, or one of the Korean food Kiosks located on the lower concourse. Boog’s Barbeque greets you as one of the mainstays on Eutaw street with Boog Powell always sitting out in front of the stand signing autographs and getting pictures with eager fans. With three choices of meat, beef, pork, or chicken, you select your sandwich either a regular or a Big Boog (double meat). The regular sandwich is $10 and the Big Boog is $15 but comes with kettle cooked Old Bay chips, sold individually for $4. Drinks are pricey, a bottled soda will cost $4, a regular fountain will be $4.50 and a Souvenir cup will cost $6.50. Carnavel Ice Cream in also available if you are still hungry for dessert. So there is a lot to choose from, as far as food goes, however you need to be willing to part with a large portion of the money that you came with. If it wasn’t for Boog’s I would probably give Concessions a 6 but with the quality and quantity of food that you get, I have to award a 7/10.
7. ADD Generation Appeal
Oriole Park is the ideal place for people to just see a game. Attendees need not be fans of the Orioles or even baseball to have a great time at Camden Yards. This is mainly due to all the other things they have going on while the game is not actually being played. In-between innings there is always some kind of “attraction”. For example, after the first inning the Orioles will give away a pair of Hershey Park tickets to the fan that best pretends to ride a roller coaster. This allows the little kids to jump around and scream and hopefully see themselves on the Jumbo-tron. After the fourth inning there is always the “crab shuffle” in which three crabs appear on the screen. Then the middle crab hides a baseball, the crabs then proceed to be shuffled, on the ground or in the air, hide under the sand so that only their O’s hats are seen, then either juggled by an octopus or scattered and thrown by a pelican. This is a very fun activity that really keeps your attention and once they settle the crowd yells their prediction and friends revel in the others foolishness. Obviously, drinking only adds to the enjoyment of this mid-inning entertainment. There are also other attractions such as the Smile Cam and the Kiss Cam that allow people to engage in the activity that they enjoy most, looking at themselves. At the end of the fifth inning there is the Esskay Hot Dog Race. This is where three animated hot dogs race each other around the bases. This allows the fans to pick their favorite hot dog and cheer/yell at them. This is, of course, ridiculous and slightly juvenile… but I will continue to cheer on Relish. Then you have your other typical in-between inning attractions, where they play a song over the PA and just show the crowd dancing and just making general fools of themselves. In addition to all of these things, once the first pitching change takes place, the crowd gets to play “What’s The Year”. This is a little video of a song, a cultural event and an Orioles event that have taken place in the same year and then fans guess what that year was. This is a great way to pass the time and it is always interesting to hear the years being shouted by the crowd and your friends.
Another great thing about the Camden Yards entertainment staff is the montages that they put on after the Orioles score. Every time an Oriole reaches home, the Big Screen lights up with clips from a variety of movies in which the characters are giving high fives. This montage then changes if the O’s score of a home run. For me this is just the icing on the cake. All in all, if you have a hard time paying attention to a game that is often laborious and uneventful, then the Orioles do a more than adequate job of keeping the attention of the crowd. 8.5/10
For me this is an easy category. The Orioles supporting staff (ushers, concession workers, beer-men, etc.) are excellent and always welcoming. Being a “season ticket holder” the usher for our section now recognizes my brother and I. In the most recent game I attended, Chris Davis hit a line-drive straight back into the seats. After the drama, a little kid gets up off the ground screaming and holding his chest, having taken it straight off the bat. Immediately two ushers are their escorting him and his dad to the nearest first aid station. This is common place. After every foul ball an usher makes sure that everyone is okay and unharmed. Depending on where you sit, you may get a cup-holder, and if you pay the man, you can get a cushioned seat. There are plenty of bathrooms, which are kept clean and free of lines even for the ladies room. All in all, there is nothing that stands out to me as a mark against the park in this category. 10/10
9. Warm-up Entertainment
I alluded to the between-innings entertainment beforehand, so although there are some enjoyable factors, I’m not going to award too many points twice. For the sake of the category, the degree of difficulty and entertainment of the crab shuffle in and of itself is worth a point. Other than that, there is virtually nothing for fans before the game. Unless you arrive at the park two hours before game time you will not see batting practice. And if you do, then after BP the only thing for you is watching players stretch on the field or watching the grounds crew prepare the field for the day’s game. One redemptive quality that the O’s have is that they usually have someone “important” throw out the first pitch, even in mediocre, middle of the season games. For example, Kevin Spacey tossed out the first pitch on July 14th in a game where we beat the Blue Jays, 7-4. Another in the plus column for Camden Yards, is the fact that they always have someone to sing the National Anthem before the game and “God Bless America” in the middle of the 7th inning. This is often a local military member. Other than these two redemptive qualities, the Warm-up Entertainment leaves something to be desired. 5.5/10
10. Game Quality
If I were to have written this review three years ago, this section would be much different. However, now under the leadership of the masterful Buck Showalter, the game play of the Orioles has dramatically increased. In the game that Daniel and I attended this was evident. The Orioles put on a show routing the Colorado Rockies 7-2 powered by long balls from Chris Davis and Adam Jones. Even though Scott Feldman is usually inconsistent, he put on a great performance, pitching 6 and 2/3 innings allowing 5 hits and 2 runs. There were no errors in the game and the defensive play was very good. In all, the game quality is what you would expect from individuals that get paid a boat-load of money to play a game, also known as professionals. 10/10
EC: There is nothing that I really see as being extra credit worthy. I was generous in my scoring so I will leave this blank.
Final Score: 80/100
Conclusion: This is the highest score out of the four parks we have reviewed and rightfully so. The others have been minor league and Atlantic league parks. Not that this means that the park will be any less fun, but the Orioles and all major league teams have more money to put into their parks and attractions. Going to an Orioles game is always a fantastic time. Win or lose, I always enjoy myself. The fans are a fantastic group that loves their team. The stadium is amazing and has so much history. The game play is exciting and just fun to watch. And even if all of these things weren’t there, our group can make any situation a crazy and entertaining one (See Review #2). Luckily, this isn’t the case with Baltimore. No matter what is going on, once you step onto Eutaw St. there is only one thing that matters… The Baltimore Orioles.
Big Boog: $15
Souvenir Drink: $6.50
This is rather steep, I know. But if you plan ahead you can avoid these costs and save… or spend it on beer. If I had eaten before the game, I could have saved the $21.50 I spent on food and drink. Plus, if your arrive with friends, then you can split the cost of parking. However, when we compare this to the other parks, the amount of money spent is astronomical. We have to chalk this up to it being a professional game. These prices are consistent from what I have seen from other MLB parks I have attended. The true test will come in the next review of the Washington Nationals park, Nationals Park.