Twenty-fie years ago the Baltimore Orioles opened Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the “ballpark that forever changed baseball.”
Twenty-five years ago (yesterday), I raced home from my sixth grade class to watch Opening Day for the Baltimore Orioles. That was about par for the course for most of my school life over the years, but this wasn’t any old Opening Day. The Birds were opening the brand new Oriole Park at Camden Yards on this day.
I made it home in time to see President Bush throw out the first pitch, which famously bounced in the dirt. But credit to the President, he simply said that he threw a slider low and in. The ballpark looked magnificent on television from my perspective, and even moreso the first time I saw it in person. And for the record, it’s never ceased to look as such.
I remember my Dad commenting right away to the effect that they’re sitting on the wrong side of the field. In fact, the Birds were taking the first base dugout at Camden Yards, whereas fans had gotten used to them sitting on the third base side at Memorial Stadium. But that was due only to the fact that for a 7:30 game in the summertime, the sun would be in the direct vision of the team sitting in Memorial Stadium’s first base side for the first three innings. However in fact, the third base dugout is the traditional home side – but I digress.
If you live in cities such as Cleveland, Dallas (Arlington), Denver, or San Fran, you have Baltimore and the Orioles to thank for your beautiful ballparks. All of those parks were based on Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Cleveland and San Fransisco are probably the closest copies of the bunch, but they’re all similar. And Camden Yards is the prototype, and thus the original.
And that’s why five years ago for the twentieth anniversary the Orioles trademarked the phrase the ballpark that forever changed baseball. All of these parks are at some point going to start having their 20-25 year anniversaries in the near future. So why not remind them all that they were intended to be copies of Oriole Park at Camden Yards?!
For years people have done trips to visit various ballparks around the league. But Camden Yards became a destination park overnight. The idea was to build something that looked and felt old school – but in fact was new. And that’s a feel that was present immediately when the ballpark opened.
First off, it has an old time feel with how it appears to be carved into the neighborhood. The Warehouse certainly plays a big role in that, and if anything that in and of itself gives the park a more archaic feel to it. (And to think that the original plans had the Warehouse being demolished!) But so many fans over the years have felt what those in Baltimore call Orioles Magic from the moment they walked in.
You get the feel that something special could have happened there generations ago. At this point in time, that’s kind of true. I’m not sure about “generations ago,” but Camden Yards has hosted moments such as Murray’s 500th home run, and Ripken breaking the consecutive games played streak. And of course a few playoff games here and there – years ago and within the last few seasons!
Camden Yards was special from the moment it opened. But the fact that it’s been copied a few times in other cities tells us that Baltimore truly got it right. And all of those other parks are special as well, but not as special as their “mother park.” There’s only one Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and it’ll always be the ballpark that forever changed baseball.
New York comes to the ballpark that forever changed baseball this evening to open up a three-game set. Ubaldo Jimenez will make his first start of the season tonight, and he’ll be opposed by NY’s Luis Severino. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.