What would you do if you could re-enter your childhood home for the first time? How would you react? Would you take in the sights and sounds? Would you walk into your bedroom to see where it all began? I don’t remember my first trip to Camden Yards, but on October 10, 2014 I got a chance to live out this experience.
Growing up with your favorite team being a loser is tough. Sure, Cubs fans haven’t won a World Series since 1908 and that’s literally as bad as it gets for a sports franchise. But when your team’s last championship victory occurred seven years before you were born (1983), and at the age of 20 you suddenly find yourself on year 14 (2011) of a streak where your team doesn’t even manage a single season of winning as many times as they lose, you might as well be a Cubs fan. The average person would understand if you abandoned faith or started ignoring the team. But for me, a person who at all possible times plays, talks, reads, analyzes, lives and breathes baseball, that wasn’t an option.
There was one advantage to my team’s woefulness: gorgeous Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Arguably the most beautiful, fan friendly stadium in all of American sports, Camden Yards’ busier days during that 14-year drought only filled up half the stands. And because of this, I got to know my beloved stadium from every angle imaginable. For the cheapest seat in the house (a $10 upper reserve ticket), I could sit anywhere I wanted- once I learned how to play it cool. A ritual began in my teens where I would start out in the upper deck, scout out the emptier-looking sections and swoop down to those sections in the middle of the game. Over time, this habit evolved into confidently walking directly to (almost) any section I wanted upon entering the stadium and taking a seat without any questioning from the ushers. Because of this, I can recall watching Orioles baseball from virtually every seat in the house: lounging above the home and visitors dugouts, chatting up the ball girls down the right and left field lines, sitting above the giant ivy wall behind Center Field, or heckling the opposing Right Fielder from the Nevada-shaped section that reaches close enough to the action that I know he hears me. If you’ve sat somewhere in that stadium, I most certainly have as well.
But October 10th, 2014 was different. It’s not that I hadn’t been around recently; just one-week prior I witnessed one of the greatest moments in Baltimore sports (that actually happened in Baltimore) in that very stadium. But that night, I headed into Camden Yards alone, clutching onto a single ticket to watch the Orioles in the ALCS.
Walking onto Eutaw Street that night was a spiritual experience. The butterflies in my stomach from the magnitude of the game were unlike anything I had ever experienced, including attending two AFC Championship games (this one 😦 and THIS ONE!) and playing in championships at the high school and collegiate level (having some control on the outcome of those games was always calming to me). These butterflies, coupled with the chill of an October baseball game starting at 8:30 pm with rain in the forecast, made for an unfamiliar, yet strangely inviting feeling that had me smiling from ear to ear. Looking up at the stadium lights and seeing the familiar posters of Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Chris Davis and the Oriole Bird felt like seeing them for the first time, and I came to a stop and gawked at thousands of fans decked head to toe in orange buzzing about baseball. I know this stadium as well as anyone, but this moment felt different, like I was walking in to the stadium for the first time.
Unfortunately, the story did not have a fairy tale ending; the O’s went on to lose a heart breaker in 10 innings that day and eventually were swept in the series. But in a way, all 48,000 of my new friends with me that night were being reborn. Reborn into a new era of Baltimore baseball, an era where what’s going on with the Orioles is more important and exciting than what’s happening next door at M&T Bank from time to time, where the talk and pride of the town is baseball. I feel incredibly lucky to have realized this in the moment, and truly soak it all in.
These moments, as much as the actual games, define what I love about sports. That for a few hours, we can become completely absorbed by our surroundings where the only earthly concerns involve eating hot dogs, drinking beer and screaming our heads off like lunatics over something we can’t control.
So with that in mind, I would like to welcome you to the G&G Sports blog, where we hope to bring you stories, analysis and insights into the best sports has to offer. We hope that although we don’t play anymore, our passion for sports will shine through our articles and provide fresh, relatable perspectives on the sports we love.
Thanks for reading.