Sky box experience would top it all off

MIKE LITTWIN

May 29, 1992|By MIKE LITTWIN

I want to sit in a sky box at Camden Yards.

I want to sit in a sky box because I want someone to ask me -- as the Orioles recently asked their sky box lessees in a questionnaire -- what I thought of the concierge service at the ballpark.

This is not something you'd expect to hear at a ballpark, where the most commonly posed question is this: They haven't run out of beer, have they? I have another question. What does a ballpark concierge do -- get you tickets to see "The Babe"?

I want to go to a ballpark and hobnob, which is what I'm guessing they do in sky boxes. There are very few chances in the life of a sportswriter to hobnob, and this seems to be my best opportunity because, to be honest, I don't spend that much time at the opera. Actually, I wouldn't know Don Giovanni from Don Mattingly, but I think I've got what it takes to ballpark hobnob. For instance, I know when to, and when not to, spit.

But first, I need to get inside a sky box.

My own newspaper has a sky box. I'm still waiting for an invitation. My experience is that people who get invited there wear ties to work.

I don't wear a tie, but if you invite me to your box, I can explain the infield fly rule in a depth that would thrill and amaze you while we dine on a dish that has a name ending with almandine or Florentine. That's my goal. And I have a feeling now that it's attainable.

Here's why:

I went to an Orioles game the other night. Because I care.

Well, because I care and because I got two free tickets in the mail.

This is a new, and wonderful, experience. People don't often send me tickets. They don't send me flowers anymore, either. Usually, the mail I get asks whether I've ever actually met Mark McLemore. In case you were planning to write, I have.

These tickets came from a disgruntled attorney -- we're supposed to be sympathetic to lawyers, now? -- a mini-plan holder who said he hated his seats and wanted me to use them. I had to think about this. Did he want me to have the tickets because he figured I was a muckraking journalist who would get to the, shall we say, bottom of this bad-seat business? Or, did he just want me to have a rotten time at the ball yard?

Anyway, I decided to go. It would be my first non-press-box visit to Camden Yards. Usually, when I go to the ballpark, it's to work. I know many of you, including my immediate family, don't think of what I do as work, but I challenge anyone to try typing and eating a hot dog simultaneously without getting a mustard stain on your word processor.

These were terrace-box seats, Section 55, even with third base, 12 bucks a shot, and I figured, how bad could they be?

So, I set out. I dropped by the light-rail station in Timonium at about 5:30. The line there was, taken end to end, nearly long enough to stretch to Camden Yards. What I did when I got there was wait. And wait. Trains are supposed to run every 15 minutes. The trains ran. I waited as the crowd ahead of me pushed on. I finally got on a train that left at 6:20 and arrived at Camden Yards at 7:10. I had so much fun looking out the window that I almost forgot that what would have been a 20-minute drive took me, start to finish, an hour and 40 minutes, which is almost the exact same amount of time it takes to get through the line at Boog's Barbecue.

When I arrived at my seats, they were in the terrace boxes, all right. Except that they were very nearly in the back of the terrace boxes, and there's this overhang. Meaning you can't see the top of the scoreboard. You can't see fly balls. And you can't see the spectacular Baltimore Sun clock. What's the point of going to a game if you can't see the Sun clock? (OK, now maybe they'll invite me to the Sun sky box.)

These aren't the only bad seats, of course. There are the seats down the left-field line that point to center field, which is great if you're an especially big Mike Devereaux fan. If you want to watch the pitcher, though, you basically have to have the same kind of neck dexterity that Linda Blair displayed in "The Exorcist." Whoever designed the ballpark must have a cash interest in a chiropractor's office.

Some people in the right-field seats complain they can't see the scoreboard. Gosh. And there are people who complain that people in front of them are too tall. An Orioles official I contacted as to this problem suggested that these whiners either grow or bring a phone book to sit on.

Even with so-so seats, I had a good time. I ate delicious Italian sausage. The Orioles won. I spent $85 at the concession stands. And, best of all, I got to finish "War and Peace" on the light-rail ride home.

It was a fan's fan's experience. Now I'm waiting for the sky box kind. You know where to reach me.

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