The money pit at Camden Yards

Kevin Cowherd

April 07, 1992|By Kevin Cowherd

An Opening Day journal, or one fan's frenzied visit to Oriole Park at Camden Yards:

Noon -- First things first. Observing modern-day baseball tradition, I leave house and swing by the automatic teller machine to withdraw a large sum of money. Let's see, parking is $5, a lower box seat is $13, a program is $3, a hot dog is $1.75, a beer is $3. So for a family of four, a day at the ballpark costs . . . excuse me just a sec, five times four, carry the two . . . oh, about $93.50.

Yeah, could be time to think about that second job at the slaughterhouse. Sure, the smell is overpowering. And you have to wade through all that blood on the floor. But that's a small price to pay to see a game.

12:30 -- To avoid traffic near ballpark, I end up parking somewhere near Vermont. But it's a beautiful day to walk. The crowds heading to the game are remarkably well-behaved; we don't pass a single chalk outline of a body. A panhandler asks if I can spare a buck.

"Whatever happened to a quarter?" I say.

"I don't need a quarter," he says in an irritated voice.

Is it me, or are some people getting a lit-tle too picky for this line of work?

1:00 -- Arrive at new ballpark. It looks terrific. Just then I see one of the light rail trains pull in packed to the rafters. Makes a trip to the ballpark about as relaxing as third class rail passage from New Delhi to Calcutta. Next thing you know, people will be climbing on with chickens and goats under their arms.

1:20 -- The inside of the new stadium is absolutely gorgeous. Walking through main concourse, I overhear a woman say: "Yes, we just flew in from London. Marissa's up in Minneapolis for the Duke-Michigan game, you know. Then she's going on to L.A. for a shoot."

Obviously, Joe and Jane Sixpack are sitting this one out. Opening Day used to be all about kids and families and real baseball fans. Now it's a lot of somber corporate guys in pin-striped suits who keep nudging each other and asking: "Which one's Cal Ripken?"

1:45 -- Bump into Scott Garceau of NewsChannel 2 ("Friends You Can Turn To.") I ask if he can give me a hand with a deck I'm building this weekend. Scott quickly looks at his watch, says he has to run to find his producer.

2:00 -- Just peeked into one of the luxury sky boxes. Must have made quite an impression, because a man saw me and barked: "Waiter, we need more shrimp!"

Anyway, the sky boxes are going for a cool 95 grand. Or you just hand over your first-born male child. Each box has wall-to-wall carpeting, two TVs, a VCR, fully stocked wet bar and a refrigerator. Also, Gov. Schaefer pops his head in every few innings to see if you need more ice.

Seems like the perfect place for a busy exec to mix himself a cocktail, rake a cracker through the peppered brie and sing out: "Which one's Cal Ripken again?"

2:30 -- On the other hand, you don't have to be filthy rich to enjoy the new ballpark. For instance, regular fans -- or at least those who've recently won big at Lotto -- can check out the expanded menu which now includes Caesar salad, grilled lamb chops and berries in a pastry cup. That sound you just heard was Babe Ruth turning over in his grave.

2:45 -- Bump into Keith Mills of NewsChannel 2 ("Friends You Can Turn To.") Ask if he can stop by the dry cleaners for me on his way home. Keith quickly looks at his watch, says he's gotta run to find his cameraman.

3:00 -- President Bush throws out the first ball. A lefty, he kicks high, delivers and . . . skips one in the dirt. Chris Hoiles nearly throws out his back blocking it. Two hundred jittery Secret Service agents reach for their guns as Hoiles rushes out to prez to present ball.

3:30 -- I'm scanning the Cleveland Indians roster when it occurs to me that I've never heard of any of these guys. Lofton, Baerga, Lewis . . . if the Federal Witness Protection Program needs a place to hide people, I'd think about the Indians' clubhouse.

4:00 -- Game is slow, so I decide to search the stands for Stan Stovall and Sally Thorner of NewsChannel 2 ("Friends You Can Turn To.") Need to ask Stan if he can help me out with a few bucks until payday. And maybe Sally can give me a ride to work tomorrow, since my car's in the garage for repairs.

5:22 -- The Orioles win on Hoiles' two-run double that scores Sam Horn (who runs like he's carrying a sectional sofa on his back) and Leo Gomez. Everyone goes home happy. The ballpark is a huge hit.

Uh-oh, I'm almost broke again. Might have to dust off the ol' bank card on the way home. Oh, sure, we were gonna save that money for stuff like food and clothing. And Mom did mention something about needing more medicine.

But I guess that'll just have to wait.

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