Monday, July 26, 2010

Oriole Optimism

Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened in 1992 as part of a master plan for Baltimore and set a new standard in baseball stadiums across the country, most flatteringly imitated brick by brick in Arlington, Texas. Camden Yards, the original and still the best of the bunch, features a glorious promenade at the edge of right field boasting concessions of local foods and team merchandise the likes of which had never been seen before. Out in the open air, wide walkways contribute to a party atmosphere that blends in with the environment of the game itself.

Where football games are most often best viewed at home baseball games are the ones to watch at the stadium itself under gorgeous skies, mild temperatures and relaxed energy all around. Baltimore delivered with a spring day right out of central casting. Not a cloud in the sky, maybe 72 degrees and the early season hopes of a city in love with its team, win or lose. Hope springs eternal and this April day was charged with drink and dreams as the O's and rival RedSox took the field.

There was reason for the O's faithful to be filled with hope and desire this day. The Orioles typically come out swinging early in the season, at or near the top of the division standings but not this year. Sadly, the 2010 season is thus far dead on arrival, the team in last place and standing double digits in games out of the lead. We were going nowhere fast and facing a season barely started but already over. In to this heady mixture of cheerful weather, pride and trepidation comes Boston, not too far removed from their first world championship but also not doing much better in this season's scheme of things. We wanted blood.

Up two to nothing in only the first inning we wanted to scream and shout but nine innings can take a long, long time to play. Like our cousins the Chicago Cubs we sat back and waited for the inevitable lead to fritter away in bad defense and generous pitching. Two to one, then three to one, the O's teased the Red Sox until the 8th inning when, tied at 3-3, Boston slammed a go ahead home run to make it 4-3. Some but not all started heading for the exits after the count was two outs and the first two strikes coming in quick order.

Third Baseman MiguelTejada was at bat, however, and everyone, including a stadium uncomfortably full of traveling "BoSox" fans were on their feet waiting for the last pitch. Crack! ROAR! A single homer to tie the game. Oh heaven above please let the defense hold through the ninth. Both sides had been praying because the ninth went scoreless and in to the tenth we went.

Only Boston forgot to keep praying. They went three and out, then allowed two Orioles on first and second base before Tejada came to the plate again. A single up the middle past the second baseman, the winning run flies around the bases and the entire city blew up in cries of elation, tears of absolution and just plain exhaustion. The O's had just dealt Boston its first losing April in recent memory and would go on to sweep the series, their first of the season. The only downside was the hour and a half it took the light rail to get us back to our car that night, a trip that normally takes less than half an hour.

It was good to be at home, at that game, in that weather and in that moment, 15 rows behind home plate, with my dad.

Gotta go.

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