7/15/11 at Camden Yards

This was another Watch With Zack game with Ross, and our day started with a guided tour of the ballpark:

In the photo above, Ross is standing all the way on the right, and the tour guide (wearing orange) is facing everyone.

The tour cost $10 apiece and started with a walk through the center field picnic area. From there, we headed through the left field cross-aisle and down into the seats on the 3rd base side:

We ended up on the field (warning track only) and had a couple minutes to take photos. Here I am with Ross in the visitors’ dugout:

Here’s a shot that truly captures the view from field level:

The tour started at 1pm, so we saw the grounds crew setting up the screens for early BP:

Hmm…

Here’s a look at the batting cage:

Here’s Ross in the umpire tunnel directly behind home plate:

The tour guide did a great job of telling everyone about the stadium and about the history of the team (and so on), but Ross and I weren’t terribly interested. For the most part, we just wanted to see stuff, but we were content to go with the flow. Here’s a look inside the umpire tunnel:

Technically, it’s not *just* an umpire tunnel. The grounds crew has a room there with some equipment…

…and there’s also a VIP Lounge:

We exited the tunnel (heading deeper into the stadium, that is) and ended up here:

Just to the side, there was a children’s playroom:

I’d never seen a playroom in any stadium, so that was pretty cool.

After that, we took one of these elevators..

…up to the press level. Here’s everyone outside the press box:

This was the first time that I’d taken an official tour of Camden Yards, but it wasn’t the first time that I got to hang out in the press box. Click here for proof and look closely at my media credential. See the “2007” on it? Four years ago — on 6/13/07, to be exact — I was filmed for a segment on UGO.com and got to explore a bit behind the scenes. Anyway, here’s a photo of the press box that I took during the guided tour:

We were told that the shades were down to prevent birds from flying in.

Check out the dry-erase board on the wall:

As you can see, it still had all the info from the previous day. (Why was the first pitch thrown at 7:07 if the game was scheduled to begin at 7:05? Seriously, why not start on time? Those were two precious minutes of my life that I’ll never get back.)

Here’s the best thing that I saw in the press box:

In case you can’t tell what it is, it’s the gizmo that the official scorer uses to indicate whether a batted ball is a hit or an error. Depending on which button he presses, the “H” or the “E” flashes on the sign that says “THE SUN” on top of the center field jumbotron.

We headed up to the next level and found ourselves in the hallway outside the TV and radio booths:

My favorite thing up there was the “Communications Control Room.” I’d never seen one of those in a stadium either. It’s the place where all the sound effects and pre-at-bat music clips are played, along with all the videos and stats for the scoreboards. Check it out:

Then we visited the club level. Here’s the entrance…

…and here’s one of the nearby lounges:

In the photo above, you can see M&T Bank Stadium through the window. That’s the home of the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens.

Here’s the club-level concourse:

You can tell it was built 20 years ago. It’s not nearly as fancy as the club levels in the newest stadiums, but that’s why I like it. That’s why Camden Yards is such a glorious place. It’s simple yet classy, memorable yet modest. When I go to a baseball stadium, I want it to *feel* like I’m at a baseball stadium — not a mall or a luxury hotel or the first class cabin on an airplane.

Behold the Orioles Hall of Fame!

The person who designed Camden Yards (along with the current head of ballpark operations) should be on that wall.

Toward the end of the tour, we poked our heads into a couple different suites. Here’s one (located in deeeeeeep left field) that features an all-you-can-eat menu of hot dogs, peanuts, nachos, salads, and soda, all for the low-low price of $45:

I used to love hot dogs, but now they gross me out so much that I wouldn’t eat them if the Orioles paid me $45. (Exceptions can be made, but for the most part, no thanks.)

Here’s a picnic area that we passed through…

…and here’s the view of the field on one end of it:

Camden Yards is SOOOOOO beautiful! I can’t stand it. Ouch! My eyes! Somebody help me!

In the photo above, did you notice that there’s some stuff on the grass behind the center field wall? Here’s a closer look at it…

…and here’s an even closer look:

Fireworks.

Wow.

I’d never seen them up close like that, at least not the super-duper powerful ones.

The tour guide led everyone downstairs and back through the center field picnic area. The Indians had already started taking early BP, so Ross and I lagged behind, not enough to get arrested, but enough to take a shot at snagging a ball. This was the result:

That’s my hand in the photo above. I’m the one who snagged it. I called out to the closest player (or was it a coach?) on the field, and when he turned to throw the ball, I backed up 10 feet so that Ross could catch it. In fact, I wasn’t even wearing my glove, but wouldn’t you know it? The son-of-a-gun airmailed Ross, and the ball ended up coming right to me. There were a few other tour-takers milling about, so I had no choice but to catch it.

After the tour ended at 2:30pm, Ross and I killed 90 minutes in a nearby/air-conditioned Subway and made our way back to the stadium.

The Orioles portion of BP was, to put it briefly, brief. The gates opened at 5pm, and by 5:15 the players were jogging off the field. Ross didn’t snag any baseballs during that time, and I snagged two. One was tossed by Blake Davis. The other was a J.J. Hardy homer that I caught on the fly.

Once the Indians took the field, Ross got on the board by scoring a toss-up in shallow left field from Fausto Carmona — or at least he thinks it was Fausto Carmona. Here he is holding the ball:

Ross wasn’t able to pose properly for the photo above because BP was in full swing (ha-HA, get it?!), so he had to quickly turn his attention back to the field.

As I mentioned in my previous entry, Ross didn’t want help snagging baseballs, nor did he need me to stay with him at all times, so while he worked the left field side, I went to the Flag Court in right field. This was my view:

I snagged two home runs out there, and I have no idea who hit them. I had to scramble for the first one as it ricocheted all over the place, and I caught the second ball on the fly. Then I used my glove trick to grab this ball from the gap behind the wall in right-center:

It took much longer than it should’ve because the ball was stuck against that concrete ridge. I kept swinging my glove at it and knocking it loose, but the dang thing kept rolling back into place.

************* T I M E – O U T ************
You know how I’m raising money for charity by getting people to pledge money for every baseball that I snag? Well, the ball that I snagged with my glove trick bumped the season’s total past the $4,000 mark. That’s a lot of money. Thanks to everyone who pledged, and extra thanks to an anonymous donor who challenged me in March to break my single-season record. I should’ve mentioned this in my entry about the All-Star Game when I actually *did* break the record, but it’s not too late. Check out the email that this guy sent back in the spring:

If you are willing, I would like to place a separate side pledge. I noticed that your highest yearly total was 543 balls in 2008. On top of the $0.50/ball I have pledged to date, I would like to also challenge you to eclipse your high total by pledging an additional $0.25 per ball over 543. That means that every ball over 543 will be worth $0.75 from me. $0.50 per all up to 543…$0.75 per ball over 543. What do you think? Because this would be on the side, I don’t necessarily want it posted, but if you want to post anonymously that someone challenged you in this manner, in hopes of getting others to “step up to the plate,” by all means go ahead. Your call…

If you are interested in the challenge, keep this email as proof that I committed to it. I’ll do the same and we can sort it out with PIFB at the end of the season.

Every ball you snag puts one more glove on the hand of a kid somewhere who might not have had that opportunity any other time. The charity itself, when you compare it to medical research or other social needs, perhaps seems insignificant…but if you think of those children out there who might be suffering from something and the joy of receiving a ball and glove (something that I know I take for granted sometimes) puts that smile on their face, along with hope that they can someday make it to “the Show”…well, I say sign me up anytime. You are doing a great thing here Zack, by doing the thing you obviously love to do. Just happy to be a part of it.

Sometimes people sum things up way better than I’d be able to say it myself. This is definitely one of those times, so yes, extra thanks are in order.
************ T I M E – I N ************

Ross, I later learned, got Grady Sizemore to throw him a ball in left field.

Here’s a random photo of Indians manager Manny Acta that I took right after BP:

Acta was signing autographs, and in the photo above, he was about to catch a ball that a fan had tossed down to him. I didn’t ask for his autograph. I just stood there and took pics.

At around 7pm, Ross maneuvered down to the front row behind the 3rd base dugout and got a pre-game warm-up ball from Asdrubal Cabrera. In the following photo, Cabrera is about to enter the dugout; his right arm is bent up because he had just flipped the ball, which is circled in red:

You can’t really see Ross in the photo because my friend Avi was in the way. (Hey, Avi, update your MyGameBalls.com profile, will ya? Come on, man. Get on it.)

I spent the first 20 minutes of the game behind the 3rd base dugout and got a 3rd-out ball from Indians left fielder Michael Brantley after the 1st inning. Then I moved to the Flag Court and met a guy named Aaron who’d brought his copy of The Baseball. Here we are:

It’s hard for me to talk to people in the Flag Court because it’s hard to see the ball coming, so I *really* need to stay focused and pay close attention. That said, we got to talk a bit during inning breaks and right-handed at-bats. Aaron’s a cool guy, and he really IS an Indians fan; he told me later that he lives two blocks from Progressive Field. He’s there fairly regularly, so if you’re going to visit, give him a shout on Twitter.

Soon after signing the book for him, I moved into foul territory, bumped into some folks who recognized me, and signed a ball for a kid named Emory. Here he is with it:

FYI, the reason why I wrote “5225” under my name is that my lifetime ball total was at 5,225.

That number didn’t last long. I moved back to the dugout…

…and got a 3rd-out ball from Indians catcher Carlos Santana after the 7th inning. That was my 8th ball of the day, and hey, look how neatly I labeled it:

I spent some time behind the dugout with a buddy named Adam. Check out the sign he’d made for Nick Markakis, who’d collected his 1,000th career hit earlier in the game:

The Indians beat the Orioles by the score of 6-5. After the final out, Chris Perez tossed me the ball that he’d used to earn the save, and then…

…I got the lineup cards from Manny Acta!

(Woooo!!)

Here’s a closer look at them:

I love the Bob Feller logo on the upper left corner. (Click here to see my entire collection of lineip cards.)

Ross finished the day with three baseballs and wasn’t too happy about it:

A total of three is obviously more than most people snag in their lifetimes, but I could relate to Ross’s frustration. Camden Yards is ball-snagging heaven. It’s the place to go if you want to run around and have fun and not be hassled and catch lots of home runs and meet some cool people and hit double digits. That’s what Ross wanted. Double digits. But there was a large crowd of 27,352. (That’s large for Baltimore’s standards.) It’s summer. It was a Friday. The weather was perfect. And it was fireworks night. All things considered, his total of three was respectable, and I’m sure he’ll do even better next time.

After the game, I gave two baseballs to these random kids:

I wasn’t planning to get a photo with them, but their parents asked if I’d pose. After they took a couple pics with their camera, I asked if they’d take one with mine. Or maybe Ross took it. I don’t even remember. Doesn’t matter.

Fireworks, anyone?

It was a fun couple of days with Ross in Baltimore. Overall, we combined for 26 balls and made a few new friends along the way.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 9 baseballs at this game (seven pictured here because I gave two away)

• 565 balls in 69 games this season = 8.19 balls per game.

• 730 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 243 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball

• 26 consecutive Watch With Zack games with at least two balls (click here for a separate page of Watch With Zack stats and records)

• 5,227 total balls

CHARITY STATS:

(I’m raising money again this season for Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Click here to get involved.)

• 56 donors

• $7.12 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $64.08 raised at this game

• $4,022.80 raised this season

Finally, it’s time for the black light. Of the seven balls that I kept, three have invisible ink stamps:

Oh, and check out this faint bat imprint on one of the balls:

Can anyone figure out what (else) it says?

8 comments

  1. Shane T.

    You and Ross had a really full day, and that was just the tour. Thanks for sharing all that with us. (I guess it’ll save me ten dollars if I’m ever back in Baltimore.)
    As for the mysterious ball mark … I think I see crossed diagonals next to the E, and a couple rounded bottoms farther on. Could that be “MEXICO”? (They aren’t made there: we know that if we read your book.) And if it’s a bat imprint, why isn’t it reversed? And the E would face the other way, no? Very curious.

  2. Trevor

    “The person who designed Camden Yards (along with the current head of ballpark operations) should be on that wall.”

    On the bottom row of the O’s Hall of Fame is Janet Marie Smith. She is one of the designers and I think she was one the main proponents of preserving and keeping the warehouse completely intact. Can you believe they were considering tearing that thing down in the early construction phase!?

  3. jere80

    Trevor stole my thunder, as a sports radio caller would say, but yes, Janet Marie Smith deserves a lot of credit for Camden, and after that, she did a whole lot of work on the Fenway renovations between 2003 and 2009.

  4. Shane T.

    Okay, I yield to Donny in Houston’s guess on the ball markings. I had trouble visualizing how that E could get transferred. And no, I don’t stop and ask for directions either.

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