Monday, June 17, 2019

My Trip to Baltimore (or Playing Catch with Xander Bogaerts)

This past weekend the lovely Mrs. Shoebox Legends and I packed and headed down to the city of Baltimore for a little fun and relaxation in the nice summer weather.  I'd never been before, but my wife had gone a couple of times for work and highly recommended it.

Since we only stayed for a couple of nights I sprang for a nice room at the Royal Sonesta, right on the water in the Inner Harbor as you can see from the pic of our room above.  We had a nice large bay window looking right out onto the harbor; a beautiful view and it was nice waking up to the bright sunrise each morning.

I found the city a really fun place to explore, at least for the few days we were there.  It was a great place to explore on foot for sure.  I have a ton of pictures I could post from things like the impressive National Aquarium...

...or the best crab cake of the ones I tried during my stay, at Duda's, which is over in the Fell's Point area.  This is a sports card blog though, not a travel blog, so I'll spare you all of that right now and cut to what you most likely want to read!

Yes, one of the many reasons that we chose this past weekend for our excursion is that the Red Sox were in town for a three game stint against the Orioles.  We got tickets to the middle game of the series, which was a 4:05pm first pitch on Saturday.

Baltimore has some widely-publicized issues with crime and drugs to be sure, but I have to say that the areas around Inner Harbor, Fell's Point and Camden Yards where we spent the majority of our time were truly beautiful.  I'd had catching a ballgame at this park on my bucket list since the stadium was first built in the early '90s when I was a rabid kid baseball fan.  It took me nearly 30 years to cross it off the list, and I have to say that it did not disappoint!

I grabbed this shot of the Babe Ruth statue that stands at the Eutaw Street entrance a couple of hours before game time, before it got very crowded, and as you can see it was a beautiful day for baseball.  Sun was shining, and temps were in the low to mid-80s.

We had a couple of hours to kill before game time, and spent part of that visiting the nearby Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum.

My wife had encountered the museum on a previous trip and tried to get me a souvenir or something along those lines (she's the best), but they were closed at the time.  This time we knew they were open, and we followed the trail of baseballs painted on the sidewalk to lead you from Camden Yards to the museum, which is pretty genius.

Along the way we passed the Brooks Robinson Gold Glove statue.  My wife got a kick out of his "Human Vacuum Cleaner" nickname, which she'd apparently never heard before despite living with a sports-obsessed husband for nearly 20 years now.

The museum itself isn't all that large, given that it's housed within the relatively small row house where Ruth was actually born.  There are a few small rooms with some very cool memorabilia, like these MLB game-used bats of Ruth's from the early 20th century.

There were quite a few Ruth autographed balls too, which of course elicited some remarks from my wife about The Sandlot, one of her all-time favorite movies.

A cool experience all in all, probably takes all of an hour to see everything if you're really taking your time and reading into all the items, even less if you breeze through quickly.  I'm glad to say I've been there though, and the cost was a reasonable $10 admission.  Besides, I certainly don't mind donating some money to help preserve baseball history in any way.

I wouldn't travel all the way to Baltimore just to see the Babe Ruth Museum, but if you're in town anyway especially for an O's game it's certainly worth a drop by.  No baseball cards of any sort in the small gift shop there, bummer.

As for the game itself, I had a blast.  Oriole Park at Camden Yards was just as unique and interesting a ballpark as I'd hoped.  As you can see, I got seats on the third base line, just a hair inside the bag and only about 8-10 rows back from the field.  Having lived in the crowded and expensive Northeast my whole life, it's always amazing to me when you can get good seats to a game like this and not break the bank.  I could never even sniff these kinds of seats at Fenway without paying probably 5x what I did for these.  How refreshing.

I chose these for two reasons.  First and foremost, I really wanted a view of the iconic right field warehouse and the city skyline.  Secondly, in looking at a map I surmised that the third base line would likely be in the shade by first pitch.  I've got a lot of Irish DNA and don't exactly tan, what can I say?  The view was exactly what I'd hoped for, and I was indeed in the shade from the very first inning on, so these seats were a win.

As a beer fan, one of the things I liked about the stadium is that they had a couple of taprooms from the Flying Dog Brewery located right in the ballpark among the other concession stands.  While sipping on my IPA before the game I noticed they'd come up with these creative riffs on '80s baseball cards to advertise some of their beers, which of course earned them some major points in my book!

The Truth Imperial IPA is represented on 1989 Fleer...

...and Numero Uno Mexican Lager gets the 1984 Topps treatment.  Love it, though I think an artist at Panini may have commissioned these as they used the same exact photo for the main shot and the small inset (burn!).

The game itself was great for a Sox fan, as they handled the Orioles fairly easily with Chris Sale on the mound (in fact, the swept the three-game series over the weekend).

One thing I did not realize when I bought the tickets is that after the bottom half of each inning the Red Sox players would often toss the game ball from the last play into our section on their way into the dugout. 

At the conclusion of the third inning I had a great experience when my favorite player for years running now, Xander Bogaerts, tossed a game ball into the crowd and I caught it one-handed (didn't pack a glove).  I gave it to a hopeful little kid with a glove next to me, because I'm not a cruel jerk.  Still, really cool as I've never gotten my mitts on a game ball before, plus it was kinda surreal "playing catch" with my favorite player so to speak.  Worth the trip down and the price of admission for that alone I'd have to say!  Wish I'd thought to snap a quick pic before handing the ball off but oh well, I have my wife as a witness.

Xander came up in the next half inning, and I jokingly told my wife that if he scored it would be due to my good karma in giving the ball away to a young fan.  Well, he did get to third (depicted here), so I guess that's something.

So yeah, super fun weekend and I'd highly recommend this city if you live anywhere remotely close by.  It took us 6 hours each way driving from Rhode Island, not bad at all.  After all of the long distance travel we've done over the years it was refreshing to do a road trip for a change and not have to worry about things like security delays at airports, or cancelled flights.

Oh, and since this is a sports card blog after all, here's an appropriate card from my latest COMC shipment, which was waiting for me in the mailbox after work today.  Watching Cal break the streak in the '90s was one of the things that really made me a rabid baseball fan as a kid, and I'm grateful that I finally got to experience the town where he thrilled the fans for so many years.

One more thing, if you do make a trip to Baltimore I cannot recommend the Blue Moon Cafe enough for breakfast.  Apparently they have a crazy long wait at times (there are less than ten tables), but we went right when they opened Sunday morning and made out fine.  That's not a picture from a magazine or anything, that's my wife's actual french toast ("Cap'n Crunch French Toast" at that!), and my greasy skillet of meat and eggs and biscuits and gravy in the background.  Yum.

Yep, Baltimore is pretty great.


Angus said...

Sounds like an awesome trip!

I haven't seen a game in Baltimore but drove by the stadium while a game was on. (I was visiting a friend and couldn't fit in the game.)

Fuji said...

That view from your room is fantastic! I'd love to one day make it out to Baltimore and Camden Yards. If I do... I might need to track down that breakfast place. Cap'n Crunch french toast sounds amazing!

Mark Hoyle said...

Looks like fun. Have to make a trip myself.

Steve at said...

Nice write up, makes me want to drop by there and visit.

Matt said...

Camden Yards is one of the best stadiums out there! Definitely worth a visit, even if the Orioles aren't exactly a worthwhile team right now.

gregory said...

What a great story! And kudos to you for giving the baseball to the kid. He's never going to forget that.

defgav said...

Very cool! Sounds like a great time.

Hackenbush said...

Great time and nice photos. I was intrigued by those "cards" at the brewery. The art is special. It's by a famous artist, Ralph Steadman, known in part for his work with gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. Here's a cool video:

night owl said...

I went to Baltimore with my wife back in 2001. Stayed in a nice hotel (room very similar to yours), took a tour of the ballpark (no game to watch but sat in the dugout and the fancy seats) and did the usual Inner Harbor stuff (aquarium, ate at some very nice seafood places). It was easy to get around in and safe, but man, you don't have to go more than 5 minutes before you see how sad and depressed that city can be.

The Shlabotnik Report said...

Can't really add much that other people haven't already commented, but I'm glad you enjoyed your trip! Even when the Orioles are doing far better than they are now, the visiting fans often take over when the Red Sox and Yankees are in town. We've been told by Yankees fans that even with the travel and hotel room involved, it's cheaper to get good seats at Camden than the equivalent seats at Yankee Stadium.

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