Baseball games are fun to watch on TV, but way more fun to watch in person. However, they're not as fun to watch in person if you are not rooting for the home team. Whether your team is winning or not, no one cheers when you cheer, no one claps when you clap, and no one high-fives you when one of your players does something great. In yesterday's Nationals/Orioles game at Oriole Park, my husband, son and I were rooting for the visiting team, along with several hundred other Nationals fans spattered throughout the crowd of 33,000. It was a picture-perfect day for baseball, the first sunny day in over a week. The Orioles won the game 8-3, a far cry from Friday night's game, which the Nationals won 17-5. But it wasn't the fact that the Nationals lost that made me feel a little disappointed - it was the fact that I just didn't feel totally comfortable at Camden Yards. It is a very pretty park, reminiscent of the old-time ballparks of the early days of baseball. its brick facade is charming, and the fact that the cushiony seats extend further out into the dugout sections allowed us members of the proletariat to sit in the most comfortable seats I've ever sat at to watch a baseball game. It was also very easy to get to and just as easy to leave (way easier than going into Baltimore to my appointments at Johns Hopkins Hospital on the other side of town). But there were a few things about Oriole Park that just didn't quite gel with me.
First of all, if you're watching batting practice in the outfield (like we did, when Liván Hernandez gave my son a baseball), you have to go back out onto Eutaw street and enter another gate to get to a different section of the park. In other parks I've visited, you can access the entire ground level by walking all the way around the main concourse of the park. Second, the selection of their concessions was limited (though according to my husband, beer was a little cheaper than at Nationals Park). Only one food stand sold nachos, and the vendors that go up and down the aisles offered a very limited fare. Because they had to build a park in a section of the city that was already developed around it, the park feels cramped and a little too "intimate." Nationals Park, which was built as part of a National Harbor project, is more roomy and was able to have other things built around it. Therefore, there is just more space for fans to move about. Another thing I didn't like was the scoreboard, which was reminiscent of a minor-league park. It took me 5 innings to figure out that the pitch count and ball speed were posted on a separate little scoreboard below the upper deck on the left field side. I'm used to getting all my necessary information in one place, and that was a little frustrating (though I'm sure the average fan doesn't care how fast a pitch was thrown). There also wasn't any live entertainment between innings - no running presidents, no racing sausages, no t-shirt-throwing mascot (the Oriole Bird was there, but he didn't do much). Instead they have these animated crabs and racing hot dog condiments on the score board that, again, are something you would expect at a minor-league game. I want to see oversized Maryland crabs made of foam doing a dance or carwheels or something! Oh, and my last complaint is that instead of having their retired numbers nicely displayed along the outfield wall, they have these gaudy sculptures on the outside of the park. I wondered why there was a giant #5 in the middle of the sidewalk, and then figured it was Brooks Robinson's number. Not good for us blind folks to have big statues smack in the middle of the sidewalk! Though I did think the Babe Ruth statue was nice; I think they made him a little thinner than he really was!
In all fairness to Orioles Park and their fans, they did play "Take me out to the Ballgame" during the seventh-inning stretch (before playing that God-awful John Denver song). They are loyal to their team, and they own a lot of orange clothing. I won't say that I will never be back (I wouldn't miss a World Series game there if the opportunity ever arose), but I think I will stick to my home ballpark for now, where Teddy never wins a Presidents Race, the scoreboard is flashy and informative, and you can buy a "Curly W" pretzel in 3 different sections of the park.