If there is one ballpark that can be credited with starting the retro ballpark boom, look no further than Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Commonly shortened to OPACY or just Camden, every other ballpark built since then has been measured against it.
Having seen it for myself, Camden is still the crown jewel of modern baseball parks. Before I get into my trip to Camden though, let’s have a brief history lesson.
A History Lesson
Camden opened in 1992 and forever changed the look of MLB ballparks. It combined the modern amenities teams were seeking for their stadium along with giving the stadium an old fashioned “retro” feel. Camden opened up receiving high praise from fans and players alike. In 1993, Camden hosted the MLB All-Star Game.
Before the first game in 1992.
The ballpark’s most memorable moment occurred in 1995, when Cal Ripken Jr. broke Lou Gehrig’s streak for consecutive games played at 2,131. In 2015, the Orioles played a game against the White Sox that was played in front of no fans due to the ongoing riots in Baltimore at that time. It was the first time in MLB history a game was played with no fans in attendance.
In honor of the Iron Man, Cal Ripken Jr.
What You Wanna Read About
Sorry, that last paragraph ended up being a wee bit longer than I intended. My first trip to Camden was on a mini Mid-Atlantic ballpark tour of 2017. After seeing a Friday night game in Philadelphia, my friends and I made the two hour drive to Baltimore for a late Saturday afternoon between the Orioles and St. Louis Cardinals.
Camden is well known for being uber friendly to hitters. Baseballs have been known to fly out at a rapid rate and the game we went to was a prime example of this. The afternoon’s pitching matchup was Adam Wainwright for the Cardinals vs Wade Miley for the Orioles. Both starters entered the game with less than stellar ERAs. Given the ERAs, the ballpark, and the warm summer air, my friend Gary made a remark saying we might see a high scoring game. He was right. The Orioles would win 15-7. They hit 5 home runs and the Cardinals hit 3. The 8 home runs are the most hit in a game I’ve attended in person.
The Orioles play host to the Cardinals.
As is typical for me the first time I go to any ballpark, I like to get there an hour and a half to two hours early. I like to get a taste of the ballpark. Camden’s most signature feature is probably the B&O Warehouse which runs parallel behind right field. Running in between the outfield wall and the old warehouse is the south end of Eutaw Street. Ken Griffey Jr. is the only player to ever hit the warehouse on the fly. He did so in the 1993 Home Run Derby.
Viewing The B&O Warehouse and Eutaw Street from RF.
When you first go to Camden, Eutaw Street is where you need to go. There you will find vendors serving up Baltimore’s finest cuisines and the traditional ballpark foods, including former Oriole Boog Powell’s outdoor barbecue stand. You will find a statue of a younger Babe Ruth, who grew up in Baltimore not too far away from the ballpark, actually. There’s also a team shop with all the Orioles gear a Baltimore fan can imagine.
George Herman Ruth and two random dudes.
Ground level view of Eutaw Street
My favorite things on Eutaw Street were the ground. Yes, the ground. It takes a good amount of power to hit a ball to Eutaw Street, and the Orioles show recognition by marking the landing spots of these long home runs. This includes visiting players, too. There was even an older usher there who knew the exact number of marked home runs for each team (the Indians had 5 so I found all of them and took a picture).
Jim Thome has one of the longer home runs in OPACY history.
What Camden lacks in a downtown skyline view it makes up for in substance within the ballpark. The Hilton Baltimore hotel is about as much skyline as you will get, hanging right behind center field. But don’t let that ruin it for you. The city of Baltimore does not have a great skyline to begin with anyway.
I already touched on Eutaw Street, and you could spend a whole game there and be easily entertained. But you are depriving yourself if you do that.
Take a walk around the ballpark. There’s plenty to see. Grab some crab cakes if you’re feeling adventurous (I wasn’t feeling that adventurous). The concourses are open and roomy, the workers are friendly, and you will find plenty of history throughout it.
The Orioles have had plenty of success since coming to Baltimore in 1954 and Camden makes it known. Even if the team has not had as much on field success recently. From 1966-1983, the Orioles won 3 World Series and 6 American League Pennants and routinely won 90 or more ballgames a year.
The Orioles were once known for their vaunted pitching staff.
Overall, you are looking at one of the nicest ballparks to watch a game in. It was that way when it opened in 1992 and it still remains the same in 2018. Sure you might find a better ballpark, but there won’t be many. Because when Camden is filled and the Orioles are good, it’s not easy to find a better atmosphere in baseball.
Enjoy your trip.