Having family in Maryland, I have watched the Orioles for years at both the old Memorial Stadium, and now Camden Yards. Now that most of these ballparks give tours, I thought I would take a tour of the one that started the mass-construction boom of downtown baseball parks. The tour only costs $9 (as opposed to $20+ fees and rude service at Yankee Stadium). The key feature of Oriole Park is that it is a ballpark and not a stadium. This simply means that the ballpark is not enclosed and views of the dowtown area and local landmarks add to the ambience. Our tour guide hammered home this point as we walked down the length of the B+O Warehouse into into the centerfield entrance. Oriole Park still looks brand new despite the fact that it opened 17 years ago. The seats are comfortable and unobstructed(unlike a certain ballpark we all know so well), and there really isn't a bad seat in the house. Oh yeah game tickets are also pretty cheap which is why Baltimore is such a hot destination for Red Sox and Yankees fans that are priced out of their own ballparks. The Eutaw Street bleachers are the best value for $15 for a single game and $23 vs. the Red Sox and Yankees. They get pretty hot on day games though. Other features that distinguish Oriole Park are the raised bullpens so fans can view or "interact" with pitchers from standing room seats, and vintage scoreboards reminscent of Ebbets Field in Brooklyn and Forbes Field in Pittsburgh.
The tour takes you through the club level and the expansive luxury suites, the press box, the jumbotron control room, and most importantly the dugouts on the field level. Fenway tours do not take you on the field. The guides do a great job not only recalling the history of the team through players and managers such as Earl Weaver, Jim Palmer, Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, and Cal Ripken; but through employees behind the scenes such as the late PA Announcer Rex Barney, who coined the phrase "Get that fan a contract" every time a fan caught a foul ball, and "Ball Boy" Ernie Tyler, the other iron man of Baltimore who rubbed dirt on the baseballs for nearly 3,800 consecutive home games. He has been working for the Orioles since 1961. Camden Yards is the original of the new ballparks and still one of the best.
For all you foodies out there, Camden Yards has some of the best options of the 30 MLB teams. There is nothing better than Maryland crabcakes and Boogs Barbeque sandwiches. Wash them down with a brew from the Bud Light Warehouse Bar on Eutaw Street. You don't have to like baseball to enjoy a ballgame. Hell, if someone wants to give me a job reviewing all the food options at the 30 ballparks, count me in. After the game McCormick and Schmicks in Inner Harbour has great crab cake sliders. Inner Harbour also has good places to party and hang out. For a good sports bar, head to Pickles Sports Bar after the game. It may be an unfortunate name for a sportsbar, but it's a good place to go. Finally, the best places to eat Maryland Blue Crabs are outside the city. Annapolis has a lot of great places, but my favorite is Watermans Crab House in Rock Hall, MD. This is where you get the quintessential Maryland experience eating steamed blue crabs covered in Old Bay seasoning off a table covered with a giant paper towel complete with mallets and claw crackers. This is a can't miss. Stay tuned for my review of the new Yankee Stadium tour.