Twenty years ago, three of my high school friends and I left school a little early to go to Opening Day. For us, the draw was the new stadium and Brady Anderson. With a pair of borrowed binoculars from a man seated next to us, we watched Brady warm up in the outfield while answering his seemingly innocent questions: Where did we go to school? What did we think of Camden Yards? Who was our favorite player? Why do you like Brady so much? Little did we know that we were sitting next to Dan Rodricks, and we would make the Sun’s headlines the next day: “Four Dulaney Teens Use Opening Day to Ogle Anderson.”
So what’s changed since that beautiful spring morning in 1993, when Camden Yards was brand new, Opening Day was exciting and the stadium was packed with hopeful fans looking ahead to a great season? Unfortunately, a lot has changed, but not necessarily for the better.
Let’s face it…the Orioles will be lucky to avoid a 15th losing season this year. Once again, pitching is a major issue. We also don’t really have a good lead-off batter, and Adam Jones is batting clean-up. (Huh?) And do any of the players remember what “the Oriole way” actually means?
However, the Orioles have whipped up a few improvements to try and lure fans to the park this year. We’ll start with the food. There’s now a better variety of food and drink options! Rick Dempsey’s opening a new brew pub and restaurant, and Baltimore’s own Gino’s has a presence now. Eutaw Market is the ballpark’s version of a convenience store, and Stuggy’s, a Fell’s Point hot dog favorite, is making its debut at Camden Yards.
The Orioles haven’t quite caught on with the standing room only crowd, but they’ve added a new Roof Deck in center field that comes close. It includes two rows of seats if you’d like to watch the game, but chances are, you’ll probably want to sit on the cushioned deck chairs by the umbrellas and have a beer.
Perhaps the most noted change this year is that the Orioles have been pushing their Legends ticket packages. They’ve erected six statues of Oriole greats, (Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Earl Weaver, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken Jr.), and will be unveiling their statures during certain points throughout the season. I can hear James Earl Jones’ voice saying, “If you build statues, they will come.” We’ll see if this actually works.
Another stadium improvement could be a benefit or a liability. And, knowing how our pitching has been the past few years, it will most likely be the latter. They’ve shortened the right field wall by four feet near the flag court. Why not make it a little easier for the visiting teams to hit a home run?
For me, this season marks the return of my beloved Brady Anderson. In a new role as a special assistant to help with strength and conditioning, I am looking forward to seeing him once again at the park. If he can help the Orioles to win a few games (hopefully more than they lose), I will consider it a good season. And let’s not forget that there’s another wild card spot out there this year. Maybe, just maybe, we can keep the spirit of Opening Day alive throughout the season.