This was my first game at Camden Yards in 11 months, and look who joined me:
That’s my girlfriend Robin (who had just found a stick and was holding it up and trying to look mean). This was her first game ever at Camden Yards, and in case you’re wondering, the only other major league stadiums that she’s been to are Kauffman Stadium (because she’s from Kansas City), Citi Field (before she knew me), and the new Yankee Stadium (on April 15, 2012 and June 19, 2012).
I’d heard that the Orioles had made several changes at Camden Yards during the off-season, and that the stadium was now even better. Considering how awesome it already was, I found that hard to believe, but it turned out to be true, and I have photographic evidence. Before the gates opened, I noticed a new restaurant on top of the batter’s eye . . .
. . . and then I saw something that made me downright giddy. Have a look at the following photo, and then I’ll explain:
From a ballhawking perspective, the worst thing about this stadium was the picnic area behind the bullpens in deep left-center. In order to run back and forth from left field to right field, I had to use the walkway around the outer edge of the picnic area — an annoying detour that wasted a solid minute when it was crowded. But now, as you can kinda see above (and will see better later on), there’s a new walkway that runs past the bullpens and leads directly to the left field seats.
When the stadium opened at 5pm, I took advantage of the new shortcut by running like hell to the left field seats and finding FOUR baseballs in the front row! Two of them — the 2nd and 3rd ones that I grabbed, to be specific — were sitting next to each other in straight-away left. I did my best to photograph them on the run . . .
. . . because there were several other guys right behind me. As it turned out, there were at least two more Easter eggs hidden deep in the seats, but I didn’t get those. I did, however, notice a ball trickling down the steps in foul territory, so I raced over and grabbed it just ahead of the nearest fan (who was roughly twice my age). That was my 5th ball of day, and when I moved back to straight-away left field, I took a picture of it:
Because it was the 500th ball that I’d ever snagged at Camden Yards. (Why do I know that? Can you imagine if I used this number-crunching energy to play the stock market?)
Robin eventually made her way down to the front row. She’s the one with the green bag dangling at her side in the following photo:
Here are a few photos that she took, starting with a shot of me in the seats:
Here’s what the field looked like from where she was standing . . .
. . . and here I am running behind the left field foul pole:
When the Rays took the field, I got my 6th ball of the day in foul territory from bullpen catcher Scott Cursi. Two minutes later, Matt Moore tossed me No. 7. Here’s a photo of him that I took as he walked toward center field:
Late in BP, when several lefties started hitting, I ran to right field and noticed yet another “improvement” at the stadium: the new see-through railing in the Flag Court. This is what it looked like for the last 20 years, and this is what it looks like now:
The reason why I put the word “improvement” in quotes is that the Flag Court is now worse for me. Yeah, it looks better, and it’s more fan-friendly, but for my own selfish purposes, that’s a bad thing. The Flag Court is now so awesome (and it’s now so much easier to see the batter) that more people than ever are hanging out there. As you can see, there are stand-up table-y things in the middle, and as you can’t see, there are picnic tables with umbrellas at the back, so in addition to the larger crowds, there are more inanimate obstacles to deal with. Why did the Orioles have to screw things up by making everything so much better?!
I didn’t catch any homers in right field, but I snagged two more baseballs in right-center. First I used the glove trick for my 8th ball of the day . . .
. . . and then I got Burke Badenhop to toss me No. 9.
That was it for BP.
Now, here’s a better photo of the new walkway that leads to the left field seats:
Here’s a photo of the Flag Court from afar:
I don’t see a yellow line above the scoreboard out there, so what does that mean? That in order to hit home runs, batters have to clear the see-through railing? Or do they need to reach the platform on top of the scoreboard? Either way, the Orioles are asking for trouble. There’s either going to be fan interference, or the umpires are going to be relying on instant replay.
Before the game, I took a photo of the action in the Rays’ bullpen . . .
. . . but not for the reason that you’d expect. I wasn’t interested in Jeremy Hellickson (who was warming up) or Luke Scott (who was standing in the batter’s box). I was focusing on catcher Jose Lobaton. As I’d mentioned that morning on Twitter, this was the one-year anniversary of the game at which I’d caught Mike Trout’s first career home run; Lobaton had ZERO career homers, so I was eyeing him and hoping that history would repeat itself.
Lobaton wasn’t the only player on the verge of hitting an important longball; B.J. Upton had 99 for his career, so I was focusing on that too. This was my view for Upton’s at-bat in the top of the 1st inning:
Long story short: Upton went 0-for-4 with a walk and two strikeouts, and as for Lobaton . . . not only did he fail to put the ball in play (he went 0-for-3 with a walk and three strikeouts), but the very next night, when I was back home in New York City, he hit his first home run, and the ball landed (un-caught!) in the middle of the frickin’ Flag Court.
Lobaton is a switch-hitter, and at the game I attended, the left-handed Wei-Yin Chen was pitching for the Orioles, so I pretty much stayed in left field all night. This was the view to my left in the 7th inning:
As you can see, I had a decent amount of room to run. (In New York, that kind of space is virtually unheard of.) But the main reason why I posted that photo is to show you the restaurant above the batter’s eye. I didn’t go up there, so I’ll check it out next time I’m at Camden Yards, whenever that may be.
After the game, I got my 10th ball from home plate umpire Jerry Meals, and then I got another at the 3rd base dugout from Wade Davis when the relievers walked in from the bullpen. Here’s the ball that Meals gave me:
On my way out of the stadium, I gave two baseballs to kids. Then Robin and I shared a crab cake with fries, and I drove us back to New York.
• 342 balls in 42 games this season = 8.14 balls per game.
• 834 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 359 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 198 lifetime games with 10 or more balls
• 6,161 total balls
(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 learn more about my fundraiser, and click here to see the prizes that I’ll be giving away to donors.)
• 38 donors
• $2.10 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $23.10 raised at this game
• $718.20 raised this season
• $19,875.20 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009