It began with a perfectly-timed work trip. I had to be in Bethesda for a 7AM meeting on Tuesday. That meant I had to spend Monday night there. Not only were the Orioles home, but they were playing the Yankees. Perfect, right? Not exactly…
Betrayal #1: Jack
For years Camden Yards has been high on our list. We both know this is a gem of a park, and neither of us had been. Jack was thoroughly upset when I told him I might be going.
“Can I go?”
“I’ve got all day meetings the next day – I’ve got nowhere to put you.”
“Pleeeease. Take me with you.”
I knew he would react this way and he was well within his rights. Our first time to Camden Yards should be together. He’s my real baseball partner. It was betrayal.
“I’ll scout it out, Jack. So when we go together I’ll know just what to do.”
“Why can’t I come now?”
But the fact is…I got over it. Monday at 3:00, 2 work colleagues and I hopped in the car and headed south. Then plan was get to the hotel around 6:00 and then shoot to the park for first pitch at 7:00. But traffic did not cooperate. An 18-wheeler had crashed on the bridge into Delaware and we literally spent 90 minutes going 2 miles. I watched the arrival time on the GPS creep further and further until it was crystal clear I was not making this ballgame. At 7:45 we reached the hotel.
“You still wanna go?” I mumbled to my friend/coworker/ride, Pete.
“Hell yeah,” he replied as if it was a stupid question.
Betrayal #2: Pete
Many readers may read this story and assume that I’m referring to my long-time pal and baseball friend, Pete Dimas. Pete and I frequently go to games together. However…this was not Pete Dimas. This was Pete from work. I was cheating.
But once again…I got over it. In a flash Pete and I were back on 495 shooting for the ballpark. We got there, found the closest parking garage, found a space just waiting for us, hit up scalpers for cheap tickets and BAM…Camden Yards.
Remedial baseball note: Camden Yards is holy in the baseball world. This is the park that began the wave of new parks being built in the last 20 years. Its construction is considered one of the 10 most important events in baseball history. Being there was a big deal.
We were starving from the long delay in traffic and we hit the jackpot with giant beef BBQ sandwiches and tall, icy cans of Miller Lite. Food in hand we slipped into the right field bleachers.
It was the 5th inning and the Yanks were up 2 – 0. The bleachers were full of rowdy, joyful O’s fans. Great scene for a game. In short order the O’s put 2 runs on the board and the crowd was going crazy cheering and screaming. Meanwhile, Pete was in the middle of a 10 minute coughing fit. Pete had put way too much horseradish on his roast beef and it was killing him – but at the same time he was starving. Pete was choking, wheezing, crying…and still stuffing the sandwich into his mouth like he was stuffing gauze pads into a chest wound.
By the end of the 7th inning, we were ready for another beer and we wanted to see more of the stadium. I’d read that the best seats were on the 3rd base side. We headed out and made our way around. Beer in hand, we slipped down near third base. A bunch of old ladies were leaving their seats and we slipped into the vacant row. We watched the 7th and 8th inning from there. The O’s took the lead to make it 4-2 and the crowd chanted “CC Sucks! CC Sucks!” as Yanks starting pitcher CC Sabathia was removed for a reliever. I didn’t care for that one bit.
More seats opened up and we moved downward so we were in the 7th row behind the Yankees dugout. Unbelievable seats. That was where we spent the rest of the game – which turned out to be exciting.
In the 9th inning the Yankees tied it up with a home run, so the score was 4-4. Pete and I were going wild. Also of note for the inning was that an idiot in a Yankees shirt next to us got into an argument with a father and his two little girls. The idiot was removed (thankfully). Pete and I turned to the crowd and apologized to everyone on behalf of Yankees fans.
The game went into the 10th inning and on a pair of doubles, the Yankees took a 6-4 lead. The Orioles had one last inning to try and come back to win.
Remedial baseball note: The Sandman is Mariano Rivera. For the past 20 years he has been the Yankees closer and is unquestionably the greatest closer in baseball history…hang on…
Super-remedial baseball note: Definition of a “closer.” When your baseball team is ahead, and the other team has one inning left to try and score, you bring in your closer. This is a pitcher who specializes in shutting down the other team for the final inning. This is a high-pressure job and extremely important to a team’s success.
Back to remedial baseball note: Mariano Rivera is the most respected athlete in baseball both for being unbelievably good at closing games (he holds every record in the book) and for behaving with absolute class. For example, Rivera is retiring after this year and in each visiting ballpark he is meeting with the ballpark staff to thank them for their support over the years. As far as pitchers go, Rivera throws only one pitch – a cutter. It comes whizzing at the batter, and then at the last second the ball spins sideways a foot. Batters swing, expecting it to hit the middle of the plate, and suddenly find the ball is at their hands. It is incredible to watch. Batters facing Rivera break their bats all the time because it hits the thin part of the bat. In fact, over his career Rivera averages a broken bat per inning. He is nicknamed “the Sandman” because when he comes into the game they play “Enter Sandman” by Metallica. It is time to put the other team to bed. Being in Yankee stadium when this song comes on is about the greatest thing in all of sports.
In Camden Yards, they don’t play “Enter Sandman.” But fans near you makes faces like this:
“It’s over,” sighed the guy behind me.
“As much as I hate the Yankees,” said another guy, “I love Rivera.” Mind you, he said this as his team was about to be defeated by the man he was complimenting.
I’d never been this close to Rivera and it was amazing to watch. He seemed so small and thin. And he’s so calm. Each pitch he takes the ball and looks at it in his hand like a man choosing peaches in the grocery store. Then he crouches like he’s about to begin a dance routine. Then he throws.
First batter: Ground out to first. When he hit the ball, it didn’t make the normal WHACK of a bat hitting a ball. Instead there was a high-pitched CRICK as his bat cracked in half.
Second batter: Pop out.
Third batter: Strike out. Game over. Time for the Orioles to go to bed.
Pete and I shook hands with the Orioles fans around us. We had all had a great time. They have reason for optimism, their team is good and getting better.
To avoid traffic we walked a block to the Camden Pub. We sat at the bar and ordered a pair of Loose Cannon IPAs and some wings. We talked over the game, glowing in that deep satisfaction from going through a live baseball game together. It’s almost a feeling of accomplishment.
From there we got the car, hit no traffic getting back to the highway, and drove to the hotel listening to the recap of the game on the radio. Betrayal over. Yankees win.
Stay tuned, readers, 2 more posts will be coming from this trip. I’ve got a more in-depth review of Camden Yards and an expose on the idiot who was thrown out of the park. Both should be fun.