The first time I went to Oriole Park at Camden Yards was in 2004, when my daughter was almost 4 and I was very pregnant with my son. In anticipation of the game, I taught my daughter how to sing "Take me out to the Ballgame." She loved that song, and was "root, root, root"ing and "one, two, three strikes you're out!"ing nonstop for days. The day of the game finally came, and she was very excited. I was excited too, since I'd been wanting to visit Camden Yards and see what all the hype was about. Oriole Park opened in 1992, and was touted as "first of its kind," since it was a baseball-only park without the bowl-like claustrophobia of multi-use stadiums; and was a throwback to the old-time parks like Fenway and Wrigley but with modern-day upgrades and conveniences. The park is only steps from Baltimore's bustling inner harbor, and sits just a few blocks from the birthplace of Babe Ruth. It is the place where Cal Ripken, Jr. broke Lou Gherig's consecutive-game playing streak, and where Mike Devereaux hit many a home run. So despite not being a fan of the American League, I wanted to see what Oriole Park was all about.
So we get to the park, and my daughter is happy watching all the people and "helping" us find our seats. She has her new binoculars, and even gets several glimpses of the Orioles' mascot. She starts getting restless though, probably by the fifth inning or so. I try to keep her engaged by telling her to practice her baseball song, because in between the top and bottom of the seventh inning, she will get to sing it with the rest of the people at the park. When the top of the seventh is over, we heard "God Bless America," which has been a common occurrence in baseball parks since the 9/11 tragedies of 2001. I was OK with that, because I knew to expect it and it's a nice song. However, after that, they piped another song over the loudspeakers, but it was NOT the traditional "Take me out to the Ballgame" - instead, I heard John Denver singing "Thank God I'm a Country Boy!" What was THAT all about? We weren't in the country; we were in Baltimore! John Denver was not from Baltimore either, so I could not figure out why that song was playing. Worse yet, my 4-year-old did not get to hear (or sing) "Take me out to the Ballgame." What would Harry Caray say about that? I was not happy! I decided right then and there that I would never go back to Orioles Park again. Never ever! What kind of baseball nerd would subject herself to such disrespect and ridicule? Why would they sing of pancakes and fiddles instead of peanuts and Cracker Jacks? I was appalled!
Well, my "Never ever" only lasted seven years, because tomorrow afternoon, my husband, my son and I are going to catch the Orioles playing the Nationals at Camden Yards! It was a quick visit to StubHub and a rare free Saturday afternoon that helped me make such an impromptu decision; plus the fact that my daughter will be camping with her Girl Scout troop and we needed something to do with my son (hey, buying three tickets between home plate and the visitors' dugout instead of four is saving us a LOT of money!). So tomorrow afternoon I will don my Nationals #7 jersey, bring my Puerto Rican flag, and visit the concession stands or the ladies' room during the seventh inning stretch. I may have succumbed to the temptation of going back to Oriole Park, but I refuse to give in to the debauchery of this Orioles tradition. I love ballpark tradition as much as the next person ("Bald Vinny" and his "Bleacher Creatures" yelling out their legendary Roll Call during home games at Yankee Stadium is a favorite of mine), but not knowing the correlation between this John Denver song and the urban atmosphere of Baltimore does not help me appreciate this seventh-inning stretch ritual (although if someone out there knows its origins, I'd be happy to learn how/why it got started). Oh, and during the National Anthem, when all you O's fans yell "OOOOOOOOO say does that star-spangled banner yet wave," I will have to just roll my eyes and keep quiet, so as not to be called "un-patriotic."
As for the game itself tomorrow? Who knows; both the Nationals and Orioles are struggling offensively and both are in last place in their divisions. But I will never pass up the opportunity to go to a baseball game, regardless of where it is or who is playing. Of course, this game needs to end before the Rapture happens tomorrow, so I can get my money's-worth for the tickets, food, and parking!