Big League Stew - MLB

The Orioles may not be what they once were and the place may occasionally get overrun by Red Sox and Yankees fans, but there is one thing you can never take away from Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Almost 20 years after it started the retro-park craze in baseball, not one stadium has come close to matching what the Orioles started in Baltimore.

Repeat: Not one.

And in the latest installment of the Big Ballpark Review, you'll see how much Baltimoreans still love the jewel that is their local ballyard. From Boog's BBQ in right field to the trains that roll right up to the stadium, OPACY is still the standard that all stadiums have strived to meet, but have never been quite able to match. 

For an insider's look at visiting Oriole Park at Camden Yards, follow the jump. To submit tips on your home ballpark, e-mail 'Duk at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com. Upcoming parks on the schedule include Miller Park, Dodger Stadium and Petco Park.

Fact and figures (More at Ballparks.com)

Address: 333 West Camden Street, Baltimore, Md. 21201

Opened: 1992

Capacity: 48,262

Cost: $100 million

Biggest moment: On Sept. 6, 1995, Cal Ripken takes a lap of the stadium after passing Lou Gehrig's record of 2,130 consecutive games played.

Fun fact: The 1,016-foot long B&O Warehouse in right field is the longest building on the East Coast and was originally slated to be torn down during the construction of Camden Yards.

Resources 

Buy tickets ($8-$80) • Seating chartStadium infoBaltimore.org

How to get there

"I live just north of the city line, so I more often than not take the light rail to the games since it's only $3 and some change round trip and it drops you off right at the stadium; it's a deal you can't beat until the way home when it seems like the longest ride ever just to get back to your stop. 

Big Ballpark Review
AL EAST    NL EAST
Baltimore   Atlanta
Boston   Florida
N.Y. Yankees   N.Y. Mets
Tampa Bay   Philadelphia
Toronto   Washington
AL CENTRAL   NL CENTRAL
Chi. White Sox   Chi. Cubs
Cleveland   Cincinnati
Detroit   Houston
Kansas City   Milwaukee
Minnesota   Pittsburgh
AL WEST   St. Louis
L.A. Angels   NL WEST
Oakland   Arizona
Seattle   Colorado
Texas   L.A. Dodgers
    San Diego
    San Francisco 

"I have also driven to the O's games many times and I'll alternate between parking on the other side of the harbor and walking through harborplace and along the harbor, parking in Federal Hill and walking the few blocks over to the stadium, or — if I'm in a real hurry to get to the game — I'll fork over the $10+ to park in the garage. Before the 10-year losing streak began, driving was awful because you'd sit in the parking garages waiting for all the traffic to slowly make its way out. Nowadays, it's a quick trip out of the garages since there are only around 20,000 people who attend the games." — Bruce Voelker, Baltimore

"Car or light rail. Parking is  easily accessible, except for big series w/the Yanks or BoSox and I often park at the 1st Mariner Arena parking garage, which is only a few blocks away from the stadium on Howard Street. Cost runs anywhere from $10-20. (It's more expensive for those bigger series.) The light rail is also a very easy (and cheap) way to go. I catch it at the North Linthicum station (right off of I-695) and buy a round trip ticket for $3.20. It takes about 10 minutes to get downtown, although it can be a bit crowded on the ride home." — Lauren Thompson, Columbia, Md.

"Driving is fairly easy since the stadium is right off the highway and the interchange was built specifically for the stadium. Parking is ample, but expensive. If you don't mind a 10-minute walk, you can usually find on-street, metered parking in the neighborhood near the stadium. It gets sketchy a little sketchy when you go west towards the bus station. If you're coming from the D.C. area or a suburb, I would consider taking the MARC train, which stops right next to the stadium. It's a commuter train that's relatively inexpensive, especially considering gas and parking expenses these days." — Ben Silverman

Before and after the game

"Pickles Pub across the street from the stadium, behind homeplate, is always fun, particularly on Opening Day. Down the street from there on Pratt St. is a place called The Wharf Rat that has really good beer and outside seating. Federal Hill is a 10-15 minute walk away but is worth it since there are numerous bars and restaurants and that's where the 20-something young professionals live and play. 

"If you're willing to pay for a cab ride, go over to Canton Square on O'Donnell Street or Fells Point on Aliceanna Street for bars, food, etc. There's also an awesome microbrewery in Mt. Vernon (up Charles St. via taxi) called The Brewer's Art.  A beer they make called 'Resurrection' is very popular around here, but I prefer another one they make called 'The Ozzy', named after Ozzy Osborne." — B.V.

"If you're in from out of town, the National Aquarium in Baltimore is a must see. It's in the Inner Harbor and although it will most likely be packed on a weekend during the summer time, it is a great place for kids to enjoy and explore. I  would give yourself at least 2-2 1/2 hours to get through it. 

"Also great for kids are the Maryland Science Center (which includes an IMAX theater) and Port Discovery, the Children's Museum. While the Inner Harbor area can be crowded with tourists, both the Light Street & Pratt Street pavilions are nice to wander through (several restaurants, souvenir shops, other stores). Occasionally there is live entertainment around as well (comedians, jugglers, other performers). Check out the paddle boats in the harbor too!  If crowds aren't your thing, check out historic Fells Point, or beautiful Little Italy. Definitely visit Vaccaro's Italian Pastry Shop, the most amazing Italian dessert shop ever!" — L.T.

"Even if it's infested with tourists, walking through the inner harbor is fun - various boat tours, paddleboats, the malls, the ESPN Zone (for arcade games, NOT food), and a surprisingly decent movie theater called Landmark Theater.

"If the game goes late, a great place for a late meal is the Paper Moon Diner. It's not terribly far from the park, and it's 24 hours. If you end up visiting Paper Moon, bring an old toy you don't want for the restaurant (an action figure, matchbox car, Pez dispenser, etc.) You'll see what I mean." — Jon G., Baltimore

"The Babe Ruth Birthplace and Official Orioles Museum is only two blocks from Camden Yards. It's a definite must-see for any baseball fan."  — George Lauder 

What to eat

"Boog's BBQ on Eutaw Street, no question.  Pit beef or pork, it doesn't get any better than that. If you're lucky, you might just see Mr. Boog Powell himself, signing autographs and posing for pics. For a mid-game snack, visit Uncle Teddy's pretzels on the first base side.  Amazingly soft & delicious pretzels — with either salt, cinnamon & sugar, or plain butter." — L.T.

"The crabcake sandwich platter (that is, with fries) that can be had for $12 at the Pop Fly Pub or Third Base Pub on the lower level. The sandwiches are tasty, huge, and mostly crab meat with very little filler (a REAL Maryland crabcake!) that you can have broiled or fried (each person has their own preference, mine is broiled).  In addition, they provide Old Bay that you can dump all over your fries and sandwich if you like your food a little spicy." — B.V.

"There are stands located throughout the stadium that offer microbrews made by local microbreweries for the same price as a Budweiser. Find one of these stands and treat yourself to a Clipper City Gold Ale or a Backfin Pale Ale and you won't be sorry. The best part is you don't have to pay extra for quality beer!" — B.V.

"The beer selection is fantastic, but you have to explore all the various stands for Guinness, microbrews, or local beers. Don't settle for the lite junk the vendors hawk. If you want a hot dog , grab one across the street from the stadium in front of the bars for just a dollar. They taste better than the dogs inside anyway. Same goes for peanuts." — J.G.

Where to sit

"There's really not a bad seat in the house, though sitting on the third base side with a direct view of the warehouse makes for a special game experience." — B.S.

"The place I can tell you to avoid though is the upper deck in left field — if you're high enough up there in these sections, the left fielder runs out of your line of sight if he runs to the warning track to catch a ball; you're left to the mercy of hearing the crowd roar to determine what happened.  These seats are extremely cheap, but you definitely get what you pay for. 

"The other place I'd avoid is being in a section too far up underneath the mezzanine/overhang — you can see the field just fine, but you miss out on what's being shown on the jumbotron. The O's try to make up for that by providing 10" or 13" tv monitors hanging from above for you to watch, but you can't really see them unless you're right underneath them." — B.V.

"The bleachers in centerfield are a pleasant surprise for their cheap price. However, if you go to a day game, you will roast like a turkey out there. Consider yourself warned from someone who's been there." — B.V.

"There really isn't a bad seat in the house, but I do love the Eutaw Street reserve bleacher seats. They're $15, it's prime home run territory, and it's close to Boog's BBQ. Try to get in section 98 though, cause then you'll be able to see the Jumbotron. (Otherwise it's a bit tough).  There's also a new thing started by the O's last year, the All-You-Can-Eat Left Field Club. You pay $40, get a quality seat and eat all the food you want at no additional charge. Friday nights are student nights, so tix are only $6 with a valid student ID. These will put you in the Left Field Upper Reserve seats." — L.T.

"I've truly never sat in a bad seat in the place. Once I was sitting in the top-most row on the first base side, yet I could still tell balls and strikes ... and the ump missed a lot of calls that night." — Chris Zimmerman, Stevensville, Md.

"There are $8 upper reserve seats on the first Tuesday of the month — a.k.a. T-Shirt Tuesday. A different Orioles player is selected every month for the gimmick, but their best player, Nick Markakis, has already had his shirt released." — J.G.

Misc.

"The rituals are unlike any other place I've seen a game and I've been to games in Boston, New York, Chicago, Cleveland, and Philly.  From the "OH!" that's shouted out during the Star Spangled Banner, to the crab shuffle on the jumbotron, to the 7th inning stretch sung to "Thank God I'm A Country Boy", Camden Yards is a place like no other. It's the only place I've been to where the jumbotron operators taunt the fans of the opposing club (primarily New Yorkers and New Englanders). In addition, Oriole Park was the first of the neo-retro stadiums and it hasn't lost a bit of its charm." — B.V.

"Camden Yards is a beautiful facility that every baseball fan should not only visit, but thank repeatedly for ushering in the modern era of great ballparks. The only problem is that you can typically hear crickets chirping at the game unless it's the Yankees or Red Sox in town." — B.S.

"My first MLB game was a game at Oriole Park when I was in the 7th grade, and I just fell in love with the park, the team, and baseball.  Come visit Oriole Park at Camden Yards. You're guaranteed to have a great time!" — L.T.

"Great ballpark in general, no doubt about it. Just watch out for the Oriole Bird; he ate my hat once." — C.Z.

Have an insider's tip for OPACY that you didn't see listed here? E-mail it with your name and hometown to 'Duk at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com for possible inclusion in the post.

Big League Stew's Big Ballpark Review will run all summer, will feature all 30 MLB ballparks and is based on recommendations from you, the reader. We welcome reviews for any ballpark. To do so, visit this post for submission guidelines.

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