The beer was colder, the hot dog just as hot and the crab soup was served faster. Boog has added a smoked turkey sandwich to his lineup. And, hold onto to your metaphor, you can now eat apple pie at the ballpark.
That, in box score form, is my report from my annual Opening Day trip to Oriole Park at Camden Yards. I stuck a thermometer into food and drink served at the ballpark concession stands. I also timed how long I waited in line.
Like a lot of baseball fans, last year's strike made me angry. When I got to the ballpark Monday for the Orioles home opener against the Milwaukee Brewers, I performed a ritual to rid myself of the bitterness from last year. I went to the Top Dog hot dog stand behind the center field scoreboard. I raised my dagger-like thermometer into the air and thought of Bud Selig owner of the Milwaukee team and architect of the owners' strategy that halted last year's season. As I plunged the thermometer into a hot dog, with chili, I said : "Hey Bud, this skewer is for you." The juices and some chili rolled from the hot dog to the ground.
The furies within me subsided. The juice-letting ritual had worked. The game began.
The hot dog was 110 degrees, the same temperature as last year's dog. I also stuck my thermometer into some crab soup. It registered 166 degrees, cooler than last year's 184-degree soup. It was hot enough, however. I had to hold a spoonful in the breeze to cool it off before eating.
This year, the wait in line for crab soup was down to 3 minutes. Last year, when I got soup at the deli in the upper deck near section 338, I waited almost 11 minutes to get served. So this year's soup was a little cooler, but much faster. Like last year's, it was not very crabby.
The price of a bowl of crab soup was $2.75, which is not bad considering that crab meat is more scarce than good pitching. It is always pleasant when the price of something does not go up. And this year the concession prices are the same as last year's. Of course, last year's prices were already higher than a major league pop-up.
The ticket prices went up from last year and that raised the average cost of taking a family of four to a game at Camden Yards to $113.57, the second most expensive in the major leagues. Only the Yankees charge more, according to Team Marketing Report, a Chicago-based outfit that tallies annually the price of four average-price tickets, two small draft beers, two small soft drinks, four hot dogs, parking for one car, two game programs and two twill caps.
Monday I spent $20 on my food and drink: a beer, a hot dog, a smoked turkey sandwich, a cup of crab soup and a slice of pie.
This is the second year that Karl Schenk and Bernie Simasek, worked out a deal with the stadium concessionaire, ARAMARK to sell beers brewed by Maryland microbrewers at the ballpark. The beer is sold at two stands, one on Eutaw Street beyond right field and the other in the left-field corner of the park. The beers are made by the Baltimore Brewing Co., Brimstone, Oliver Breweries Ltd., Sisson's, Oxford Brewing Company Ltd. -- all Baltimore-area brewers -- and by Wild Goose Brewery in Cambridge and the Frederick Brewing Company in Frederick.
The beers sell for $4.75 a cup. This is expensive. But for me it is worth it.
My thinking on the high prices of ballpark food is the same as my thinking regarding the inflated salaries paid to baseball players and the big profits made by baseball owners. Namely, I don't complain about the numbers, I do complain about the quality of the product. Going to a baseball game is no longer a cheap way to have a good time. But the experience should be pleasant.
The hot dogs and the crab soup should be hot. This year they were. The beer should be cold. This year it was. My cup of Maibock beer made by the Baltimore Brewing Co. was 40 degrees, some 6 degrees colder than last year's sample.
The wait in line at Boog Powell's stand for the $6.25 smoked turkey sandwich was 10 minutes and three seconds, about a minute faster than last year. The sandwich was plump but mild, helped along considerably, as is true with most things in life, by a healthy serving of barbecue sauce.
I found apple pie at $3.50 a slice served at a stand along the third-base line. The pie was a little sweet but the crust seemed authentic. I am not sure why I ate apple pie at the ballpark. But it seemed like the American thing to do.