Monday, October 8, 2012

Game 28: Birdland

Editor's Note: We sincerely apologize for taking so long to publish our final blog posts. The drawback of starting classes 15 hours after the final game is that we have struggled to find the time to finish these posts. We will, however, continue to post reflection pieces even after the game posts are complete. Thank you for your patience.

I love Camden Yards. Opened in 1992, in my opinion it is the best of what modern stadiums can be. Jeff, Damon, Owen, and I have spent countless hours arguing over what aspects of each stadium make it "better" than any other. Ultimately, we realize, it is an impossible debate to resolve. Each team has a unique character and history, and the stadium itself is inextricably linked to the legacy of the franchise it houses. The two best examples of this are Fenway Park and Wrigley Field, both of which are differentiated by their age and quirks, but distinguished by the players who played there and the moments that happened there. When the Athletics, for example, build their next stadium, there should not be an oddly high left field field wall or any other gimmick for the sake of being unique.

So while our conversations about which ballparks are our favorites may never become fully resolved, some key themes have become apparent:

1) Always have baseball in mind

With two exceptions (Fenway and Wrigley), the experience of watching Major League baseball is diluted by mascot races, scoreboard-induced "Charge!!" cheers, and a plethora of other media. Individually, they are usually somewhat entertaining and generally harmful. Collectively, however, they detract from the baseball experience.

At Camden Yards, I especially loved that Eutaw Street was at the same elevation as the top of the right field wall, where there was open standing room space.

The most memorable moment for me though, was the tradition of yelling the "O! Say can you see?" during the Star-Spangled Banner, and I absolutely loved it. The cheer was unique, it made sense, it got fans into the game, and most importantly it felt completely organic.

2) Create your own baseball "village"

This is the area where the Orioles truly excel. The advent of Eutaw Avenue, a enclosed street within the stadium's ground that houses barbeque street vendors, the team store, and a variety of other entertainment options. Wrigleyville in Chicago and Yawkee Way in Boston feature a public street that, much like an opening comedy acts, does a fantastic job of getting fans in the mood for baseball even before they enter the stadium.

Even the rooftop bar in center field was nice because the views were of the stadium, rather than tucking the bar into some air conditioned cavern and filling it with TVs. The bar was unique in that it was an experience you could only enjoy if you were at the game.

3) Leverage your surroundings

Within the stadium, the attention of spectators should be pushed towards the field, but when a team is blessed with some unique view, like the city skyline in Seattle or the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, the stadium should be constructed in a way that connects it to the surrounding environment. The Yankees, for example, play in the South Bronx, where there are no good views of the Manhattan skyline, which almost certainly factored into the team's decision to have seating all around the stadium with no views outward. By contrast, at Coors Field we were treated to a gorgeous sunset over the Rockies in between Brewers mound visits (Milwaukee's starter, Michael Fiers, didn't make it out of the third inning).

In my opinion, Camden Yards, along with PNC Park, AT&T Park, and Petco Park, was one of four post-1920 stadiums that did everything right. What differentiated Camden for me was, admittedly, pretty game specific. With the Yankees in town and AL East division race coming down to every last game, there was probably more energy in that stadium for this weekend series than there had been in over ten years. You couldn't have told that from that night, however.

Plus, any time you can see your favorite team win an important game on the road, you're in for a good time.

Games Watched: 28
Games to Go: 2
Stadium: Beautiful for all the reasons described above; in my opinion Oriole Park at Camden Yards was the most well-designed stadium of the last 30 years, and they did it even without the benefit of riverfront/bay-front property

Thuuz Rating: 82
Tim Kurkjian Award: The Yankees pinch hit for three consecutive hitters, substituting Raul Ibanez for Andruw Jones, Ichiro Suzuki for Steve Pearce, and Eric Chavez for Casey McGehee
Miles Traveled: 14118
Miles to go: 201 (Braves @ Mets, Citi Field)

Click "Read More" for more pictures:

Craig and Damon walking up to the Stadium

The scoreboard

The right-field fence and Eutaw Street behind it



View from the seats

Derek Jeter stepping into the box

Full house, even in the upper deck

Beyond the right-field wall

Nachos in a souvenir helmet

Night view
Right-center field

A-Rod celebrating after a 3-run HR

Within the stadium walls

The crowd celebrating
28 down, 2 to go

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