I don’t know how ballplayers do it. I woke up on Friday morning in a darkened hotel room. For about fifteen seconds, until I thought to roll over and look at the clock, I literally had no idea where I was or what time it was. (It was 10:42. Nine hours of sleep never felt so good.)
Friday was probably the day I was looking forward to the most. Not only were we going to see a game at Camden Yards, which I’ve always heard good things about but never before visited, but we were also going to be joined by Extra P for the second annual Bus Leagues Baseball Organizational Summit. Though his seat wasn’t with ours, he WAS in our section, and we figured that we’d have plenty of time to hang out and tell blogging war stories well into the night (“Why, I remember where I was in Aught-Seven, when Cowherd took down The Big Lead. It was a Tuesday. The day dawned gray and grim, and I knew something rough was in the offing…)
Before the game, however, we needed sustenance. Chris had been talking all week about CiCi’s, a reasonably priced pizza buffet about ten minutes from the hotel. Tim wasn’t feeling well and had some homework to do, so he stayed behind at the hotel while Billy, Chris and I went to lunch. We had a little trouble getting there – the VZ Navigator on my phone wasn’t recognizing the address and I am ridiculously inept at reading a map (which is why I have GPS in the first place); OF COURSE I belonged in the front seat – but made it after about half an hour. I’d like to think the additional time in the car whetted our appetites. Once there…who knew there were so many different kinds of pizza, and all in one buffet line? Joe Croce, Mike Cole, I salute you.
We made it back to the hotel in one piece, relaxed for a while, and headed to the ballpark. Our parking pass directed us to Lot D, which was located directly in front of MT Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens. As we walked around the stadium, Billy spotted a wall with a bunch of names on it. We went over to take a look, figuring it had something to do with players, only to be disappointed when we realized that it was just a list of people who had purchased Personal Seat Licenses when the stadium was being built. Talk about disappointment.
That disappointment was tempered as we approached Camden Yards, however. After Billy crossed the street illegally, against the direction of two attendants who were directing traffic (he insisted that he heard one of them say, “Go,” so he went – and waved when he got to the other side of the street), we found a nice war memorial just outside Eutaw St. It was a beautiful setup that more than made up for the disappointment of the PSL “monument”.
From there, we entered Eutaw St. It was still early, so we were able to walk around and explore without too much interference from other fans. Billy was especially interested in finding the baseball plaques that Extra P had written about last month after his previous trip to Camden Yards. I realized he had found them when I went to say something to him and saw that he had drifted twenty feet away and was staring intently at the ground. I left the Maryland Sports Hall of Fame or whatever it was I was checking out at the time and followed his lead, wandering around with my head down for the next five minutes. More than once, I crouched in the middle of the soon-to-be-crowded walkway to take a picture with my cell phone.
Our seats were located in the leftfield grandstand, just off the foul line (Chris was very reassured by the fact that he had to look up, rather than down, to see the top of the foul pole). The Orioles were hosting the Nationals, so we figured attendance would be light and we could find better seats as the night went on. Until then, we spread out in our row, the four of us taking up six or seven seats (Chris and I are big guys; we like our space, if at all possible). Quite possibly the highlight of the night came during the National Anthem; somebody (okay, me) forgot to tell Billy that the crowd shouts, “OH!” just before the last lines. I was looking at the back of his head and I could practically see the disgusted look on his face. It was great.
Extra P joined us sometime after the first pitch, grabbing an empty seat in the row in front of us until their rightful owners arrived to boot him back to our row. We were sitting there, talking and minding our business, when an usher suddenly appeared at the end of the row.
“I need to see your tickets.”
“Sure,” I said, reaching into my pocket and forgetting momentarily that Extra P was in the wrong seat. As the usher looked at his ticket, I noticed four people standing on the steps at the end of the row.
“This isn’t your seat here. Your seat is down there,” he said, waving toward the front row and reaching for mine and Tim’s tickets. “You need to sit in the seat number on your ticket. We’re close to a sellout tonight. This isn’t general admission!”
It reads like he said it nicely. He didn’t. We moved closer together as Extra P gathered his stuff and found his seat. When the dust cleared, somehow, there were only three seats at the end of the row. This did not make the usher happy.
“You NEED to SIT in the SEAT NUMBER on your TICKET,” he repeated. “We’re close to a SELLOUT tonight. It’s not GENERAL ADMISSION out here.”
I tried to explain that the four of us were together, so we would be within a four-seat range rather than specific seats, but he wasn’t overly interested in listening to me at that point, which is one of the few things that can get me mad. I was starting to heat up when Billy led the way by sliding down into an empty seat next to him. Chris, Tim and I followed suit, and further crisis was averted. But still, it was a frustrating moment, mostly because the group whose seats we were sitting in hadn’t said anything to us before grabbing the usher. All they had to do was say, “Excuse me, I think you’re in our seats,” and we would’ve moved over without debate. Their first move was grabbing the usher, however, and his attitude only served to make the problem worse.
We left a few minutes later to grab some food (and because I really wanted to make the people next to us stand up). My destination: Boog’s, the BBQ place on Eutaw St. that Extra P had written about so glowingly for ESPN. I’d smelled it earlier and needed to get me some of that, regardless of the prices, which are a little high (I think it was $9 for a pulled pork sandwich, coleslaw, and beans). Billy followed his nose as well, and we agreed afterward that it did not disappoint. Unbelievable quality. I even ate the beans.
You can't tell from this picture, but I'm standing a row above Extra P, who is trying to keep himself from falling over backwards
We went back to our seats a couple innings later and watched the suddenly potent Orioles lineup light up the Nationals pitching for eight runs in the sixth inning. An inning later, I moseyed down a couple rows to talk with Extra P (all the while, expecting the usher to look up, see me, and order me back to my seat). The game ended surprisingly quickly (just a smidge under three hours), we enjoyed a post-game fireworks show (that explains the 45,024 in attendance), and that was that. On the way out, I suggested we look again for the ultimate baseball plaque, the one marking the spot where in 1993 Ken Griffey Jr. became the only player to hit a ball off the warehouse. We had looked earlier with no luck, but Extra P had at least an idea of where it was and so served as our guide. After a few minutes of searching, he tracked it down, much to the delight of Chris, the biggest Griffey fan I know.
Outside the ballpark, we went our separate ways, Extra P on the road to Virginia, our merry band of travelers back to the hotel. There was a bar next door, so we headed over for a drink (sadly, we were too late to get quesadillas). One beer turned into two, then a few shots, and by the time the bell rang for last call I was pleasantly buzzed for the first time in recent memory. We were still hungry, though, so Billy drove us to a nearby McDonald’s to pick up some food (which did not have a dollar menu), then it was back to the hotel. Billy went to bed and Tim tried to get some work done while Chris and I worried about what was truly important in life: looking up as many of the Seinfeld videos as we could remember from the previous night. At some point, half-sober and three-quarters asleep, I decided I needed to post. It didn’t go very well.
So ended Day Two.