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2011 Year in Review. May 3. Can't beat Camden Yards

POSTED December 23, 2011
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson

                                                Can't beat Camden Yards

             Twenty bucks, front row bleachers. A chat with Boog Powell after devouring one of his mammoth pork sandwiches. Just another quality night at Camden Yards in Baltimore.

            Here’s the great thing about Camden Yards, you don’t have to be an Orioles fans to enjoy it. You can hate the Birds and Brooks Robinson and think Earl Weaver was a cartoon character. It doesn’t matter. Their still relatively new place of business which started the trend for all the modern baseball stadiums is just a great place to watch a game.

            Start with the price. On the way back from Colonial Williamsburg recently we decided to stop in Baltimore to divide the trip up since Route 95 can be more torturous than water boarding or having bamboo shoots hammered under your fingernails.

            We checked the schedule and the Orioles were home against the Twins much to the delight of my son Jonathan. Now let’s face it, good seats at Fenway necessitate a credit check and mortgage loan. Yankee Stadium in years past, the same.

            Not Baltimore or at least not to the Red Sox, Yankee extent. So we walked up to the ticket office, purchased three front row bleacher seats for a grand sum of .  P.S. – the Orioles haven’t been very good for about 100 years (since 1996 actually) so seat availability is never a question.

 In fact it ticks manager Buck (Showalter) and the boys off to no end that when the Yankees and Red Sox are in town they outdraw the Orioles.  The difference between winners and well, non-winners. A bit of advice – don’t start the season off 10-40 and more people will come. They are better this year.

We headed up to the game early, because Camden Yards is a great place to walk around. For blocks around the stadium the streets are dominated with Oriole banners. Once you get near the park, if you want to take a relatively cheap visit to the sports museum it’s well worth the paltry price of about . We bypassed this time because we have been there before. But you should do it once.

You walk into the park area right outside the center and right field bleachers and stands on to Eutaw Street. Ticket takers looking like giant pumpkins in their Oriole orange with khaki pants labeled security check you in and you’re ready to go.

Camden Yards doesn’t carry with it the grittiness of Boston. Eutaw Street is as clean as baby’s butt after a bath. Not a paper to be found anywhere. Also on the street that has you stopping every 20 seconds are bronze memorials of where some of the longest home run balls have landed, who hit them and how far they went.

The rest of the street is occupied by your refreshment and food stands and on this night three former Orioles including the legendary Joe Orsulak were signing autographs. The Orioles big merchandise store is there too and you will never see as much black and orange unless your car breaks down at Terryville or Watertown High Schools.

But the dominating den on Eutaw Street is Boog’s Barbecue. Boog is Boog Powell, the affable former Oriole first baseman (1961-74) who was the American League MVP in 1970 and a four-time All-Star.

The kicker here is that Boog’s Barbecue doesn’t just carry the name. The 6-foot-4, 260-pounder (okay maybe a couple of dozen sandwiches heavier now) shows up every night, sits on his stool and signs. Anything you have and for free. For free. For free. Just wanted to make sure you got that.

He has signed Jonathan’s shirt twice and I have had the pleasure of talking with him about Baltimore’s four 20-game winners in the same season and whether he could hit the warehouse behind Eutaw Street. Just for the record, this is what he told my brother Gary and myself, “Heck I would be hitting the warehouse all the time,”

At 69 with hands the size of big hams you don’t doubt him. Talking with Boog is like talking with your neighbor. You half expect him to invite you home for dinner or buy you a Harvey Wallbanger. You don’t get Boog at Fenway and Yankee Stadium. You might not want him, but you don’t get anybody else either. For free.

We finished Boog’s sandwich and our chat and drifted in the right field bleachers. Before the game chances of grabbing a foul ball are high. We didn’t get one but there will be other nights.

During the game, the seats were perfect. A relatively quiet crowd except for the one guy enjoying his birthday by decking himself out in Baltimore baubles well-oiled with .50 Bud Lites. Easy access to bathrooms and food and only about 30 feet from right fielder Nick Markakis.

We didn’t do it on this night, but Camden Yards is a relatively easy place to move down once the game starts. In a previous game we just went in and sat in some empty seats about 15 rows off of third base without anybody saying a peep to us.

The only problem on the night was that the Twins won, 3-1. Hey, you can’t have everything. I did purchase six tickets for the Orioles and Red Sox on July 18 just six rows off of the field slightly past third base. And I didn’t have to sell my car to do it.

If you stay in a hotel in the inner harbor, you are no more than a 10 minute walk to and from the park, another big plus. You never have to wake the car.

Camden Yards is roughly a five-hour drive from here. Take a weekend and enjoy. If you like baseball, you’ll like Camden Yards. You owe it to yourself to go.

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