Oriole Park at Camden Yards
If you’re a fan of a team that has constructed a new baseball stadium in the last 20 years, then Oriole Park at Camden Yards had an impact on the design of your teams new ballpark. After a 33 month construction period, Oriole Park at Camden Yards officially could be called home for the Orioles on April 6, 1992.
Designed by Helmuth, Obata & Kassabaum (HOK) with help from the Orioles and the State of Maryland (Maryland State Authority), they created a masterpiece. Located just 2 blocks from the birthplace of Babe Ruth, and just a few blocks from the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, Oriole Park was perfectly placed and nestled in the heart of Baltimore. Seen beautifully from I-95, it quickly became a staple when visiting Baltimore.
Before 1992 and Oriole Park, the previous “norm” was to build a multi-purpose stadium, that could host baseball, football and other various professional sports in one central location. Stadiums like the Metrodome, Kingdome, O.co Stadium (Formerly Oakland Coliseum) and Riverfront Stadium (Cincinnati, OH) were all the norm. These were great for a city’s budget but not for the overall atmosphere for the fans. The new design was so popular, that the same designers were asked for their inputs for new stadiums for the Cleveland Indians, and the Texas Rangers, while also sharing opinions on seating for the Tigers.
Camden Yards changed the culture of how baseball stadiums were constructed in two ways. They brought back the baseball only stadium (only baseball will be played there) and also changed where these stadiums will be constructed. The acceptable nature was to build a stadium on the outskirts of a city, or even worse, build it miles away out of town in a tiny suburb. These stadiums were rarely found actually in the city that each team represents on their jersey. With placing Camden Yards in the heart of Baltimore, it allows for actual patrons of Baltimore to literally be able to walk to a game.
So what makes Camden Yards itself; great? In my personal opinion, it is a number of things. The first and most obvious answer would be the placement of the ballpark. As I noted before, being able to walk to a game is great to see. Whether I am driving in from I-95 or being someone who walks in myself, seeing the droves of the crowd filing in to the stadium is a site to see. But outside of just the physical placement, there is more to it. The views you can see are fantastic, especially with being placed next to the B&O Railroad Warehouse. This building instantly provides a picturesque view from practically any spot in the stadium. The Warehouse is actually the longest building on the east coast and was built in 1898. The warehouse not only provides a great backdrop for baseball, it also provides some entertainment as well. With it being 439 feet away from home plate, it makes for a great target for power hitters — however only one slugger, Ken Griffey, Jr., has hit a ball off the warehouse, and that was during the Home Run Derby in 1993.
The street that separates the warehouse from the stadium is deemed Eutaw Street. One of the features of Oriole Park is the history that is found throughout its parts. Every home run that has landed on Eutaw Street and the warehouse are remembered with a small gold plaque that states the player, the team, the date and the distance of the home run. The first home run hit onto Eutaw was by former Detroit Tiger, Mickey Tettleton on April 20, 1992. Be sure to look for his and the rest of the plaques the next time you are walking on Eutaw! While you’re there, be sure to swing by former Oriole, Boog Powell’s BBQ, just at the top of your seats in Right Center.
The retro feel of the stadium does not take away from new amenities you can find in even new stadiums today. Center field is home to a newly designed HD LED scoreboard, as well as all new sound system and HD TV’s throughout the walkways in the stadium, but was still able to preserve the retro feel. The nostalgia feel of historic baseball found in Camden Yards while also containing the latest technology is unmatched in baseball. Historical sites like Fenway and Wrigley have a storied past, but they are not able to provide the current amenities that new stadiums are putting into their ballparks.
Even the latest stadium constructed in Miami for the Miami Marlins was affected by Camden Yards. The Marlins former ballpark, (I will always call it) Pro Player Stadium, was used for the Marlins and the Dolphins. When the Marlins were asking for a new stadium, they were unsure where to put it. Because of the positive impact the Orioles had with being placed in downtown Baltimore, the Marlins suggested moving the stadium to the city of Miami themselves. Pro Player stadium was almost 30 minutes outside the city. When negotiations were over with, they decided the best place for the new stadium was in the heart of the city (much like Camden Yards).
The personal memories that I have at Camden Yards will always have a place in my heart. I’ve practically watched myself grow up year after year in that stadium. Being just 5 years old when it first opened, I’ve been able to attend at least one game every year. I can’t say I’ve seen it all, as I’ve not witnessed a perfect game, or a no hitter, but I have seen my share of memorable moments. From walk-off home runs, to countless diving grabs at short by Ripken to Hardy. I’ve even witnessed a home run by Melvin Mora and yelled at everyone to not sit down, as Tejada is going to hit another one, and with one swing of the bat, he proved me right. Of course, the Orioles have not always been at the top of the AL East, as their last winning season was in 1997, so I’ve seen a lot of tough losses in my day as well, but those losses never take away from the experience. The Orioles and Camden will always have a place in my heart, and when they get back to the playoffs, I hope to be able to have a seat somewhere in Camden.
With the Nationals coming into town to wrap up the Beltway Series with another three game set, there is no better time to head into Baltimore and enjoy the sights and sounds of this area’s most entertaining local rivalry. Get there early, enjoy a Natty Boh beer from Pickles, and enjoy the chatter from the local fans.
I’m curious to hear your favorite memories or stories from Camden, so feel free to leave a comment on here or on Facebook.