Spring Training at Camden Station

February 21, 1993

Baseball's All-Star Game in Baltimore is still 21 weeks away, but the preliminaries have begun.

Between now and July, Baltimoreans and out-of-town visitors can get a realistic foretaste of things to come at a preview center that has opened at Camden Station. The Civil War era landmark's ground-floor waiting rooms now contain 4,000 square feet of exhibits about some of the most remarkable moments in baseball history.

Displays are devoted to the history and development of Baltimore baseball since the 1870s, to Negro League players and, of course, to Babe Ruth and the nearby museum honoring the Baltimore-born legend. Participatory exhibits include a radar pitching booth, a video batting cage and a "fantasy photo" concession where visitors can get their faces inserted into a baseball setting.

The most remarkable exhibit, however, is a video batting cage, where fans can act out their dreams. A $3 ticket buys 10 balls which are thrown by life-sized images of Major League pitchers. The video batting cage is quite an experience.

The preview center will stay at Camden Station until mid-summer. It will then be expanded and moved to the Baltimore Convention Center and Festival Hall where it can better accommodate the big crowds expected for the July 13 All-Star Game. Entrance to the preview center is free; only special exhibits, like the batting cage, cost extra.

Aside from baseball fans, the preview center is of interest to local history buffs because it gives access to Camden Station's waiting rooms -- with their high ceilings, refurbished lamps and long wooden benches -- for the first time since extensive restoration was completed last year.

It is conceivable that the station building could be incorporated into the proposed medical trade mart, if it becomes a reality after the undersized Convention Center nearby is expanded. Although only part of the first floor of Camden Station can be toured during the next few months, even that shows the old railroad station's remarkable potential for some innovative permanent re-use as office, retail or exhibit space.

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