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Sep 8, 201012:09 PMResident Tourist

Nats vs. O’s: It’s in the Ballpark

Sep 8, 2010 - 12:09 PM
Nats vs. O’s: It’s in the Ballpark

This summer I had the pleasure of pretending to be a baseball fan at both of our local stadiums: the relatively new Nationals Park and Camden Yards in Baltimore.

We took Metro to the Nationals game, watching the train fill with more red caps and shirts at every stop. I enjoyed the lively scene coming down the promenade on the short walk from the Navy Yard Metro stop to the front gates as people bought peanuts, met friends and socialized before going in to root for their team. There’s a great sense of arrival approaching this stadium. It feels like a party at the gates.

The new phenom, Stephen Strasburg, was pitching (latest surgery news here), and people seemed giddy to be there. Luckily, in spite of the buzz, we were able to buy tickets on the spot for pretty good seats.

As someone who is only mildly and politely interested in what’s happening on the diamond, ambiance plays a big role in my baseball outing. In spite of the joyful, red-colored gaiety in and around Nationals Park, I prefer the old-timey, intimate feel imposed by the long brick warehouse wall and the sweeping city views at Camden Yards. Even the gleeful roar that sounded as Strasburg took the mound was not enough to attract me more to this concrete-feeling baseball park.

Nationals Park, designed by the same firm that created the plans for Camden Yards (and about 15 other parks since then), purposefully lacks the retro touches of the Baltimore design. But whatever makes it more modern also gives it a generic feeling. Nor does it feel attached to D.C. in the same way the Orioles’ park does to Baltimore.

Sports Illustrated reporter Josh Levin writes, when he compares Nationals Park to the temporary former home of the team, “If RFK Stadium was an old acquaintance who’d seen better days, then Nationals Park is the pal who’s always asking you for money.”

I found both excursions rather expensive and both venues filled, in a theme park kind of way, with pricey food stalls, costly souvenirs and even kiddie rides. Certainly, if you’re taking your family to a game, you’ll spend hundreds of dollars on the event. (The Team Marketing Report, a sports marketing publishing company, shares its shocking averages here.)

My friend, Adam, looked at the children-sized Orioles jersey for his daughter and politely walked away; $79.99 seemed high, even for this ardent O’s fan and devoted dad. But, at least you are immersed in the historical feel and beauty of Camden Yards when you surrender your dollars there.

photo credit: Amanda Lippert, www.baseballstadiumreviews.comFor me it comes down to this: Nationals Park has Teddy’s BBQ; the racing presidents; and also, “Shout,” by Otis Day and the Knights during the seventh inning stretch. The Orioles’ park sits amidst great pubs and restaurants, has delicious crabcakes for sale inside the gates (only $12, which is barely a mark-up compared to the $7.25 you spend for a beer!), and, curiously, “Thank God, I’m a Country Boy” as its mid-game, crowd-rousing ditty (“Life ain’t nothin’ but a funny, funny riddle!”)

Sadly, if you’re sitting in a seat at Camden Yards, you’ll be (one of the few fans) in one of the most beautiful parks in the country, watching the worst team in the league. Still, I’ll take the Orioles and the longer ride home.

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