Longing for a day when Camden Yards isn't Fenway South

May 24, 2006|By ANDREW DALE

This month, the Boston Red Sox came to town for a three-game series against the Orioles. I had two prime lower box seats to one of the games. I didn't go.

On paper, it could be a great game, full of superstar names on both sides of the diamond. But I find it increasingly difficult to get excited these days. It's especially tough when the Red Sox come to Baltimore.

I've been to Fenway Park in Boston. Great ballpark, one of baseball's hallowed venues. It's rich with tradition, has that cool Green Monster wall in left and seats so close to the field you can smell the flavor of gum David Ortiz is chewing. But unfortunately, when the Red Sox come to Baltimore, Camden Yards becomes Fenway South. And it's tough to stomach.

I'm not one of these people who hate all fans of other teams. Frankly, it takes too much time and energy. I certainly don't hate Red Sox fans. In fact, generally, I like them compared with Yankees or Phillies fans. They typically are knowledgeable about sports and like to chat.

But the scene inside Camden Yards when the Red Sox are in town is absolutely brutal. I can't believe there is another stadium in any sport in the entire world that gets routinely invaded and taken over by opposing fans as often as Camden does when the Red Sox are there.

For those who have never experienced it, you're really missing a spectacle. When the Red Sox return, buy a $5 upper deck or a $15 Eutaw Street Reserve seat (if you can fend off the thousands of Boston faithful and get one) and see for yourself.

As "The Star-Spangled Banner" ends, the crowd thunderously erupts into a "Let's Go Red Sox" chant - the same chant routinely heard echoing from Fenway as games begin in Boston. Generally, the Red Sox strike early and score a run or two in the opening frames. As Manny Ramirez rounds third after smashing a towering 400-foot blast, the roar of the crowd is deafening.

Sometimes I have to cover my ears because they ache from the noise. Midway through the game, the Orioles have begun warming some poor relief pitcher who meekly has to drag himself out of the bullpen and try to stretch and warm up to the sound of wisecracks about his wife, children, pets, haircut and/or body shape.

The Orioles will typically grab a few runs in the middle innings to make the game interesting. Maybe Miguel Tejada or Jay Gibbons will go deep. Maybe Melvin Mora will steal a base or Brian Roberts will hit an RBI double. As the Orioles score these runs, crickets can be heard chirping to one another.

In the eighth or ninth inning, the Red Sox will score a few insurance runs and the crowd will thunder with applause as Jason Varitek or Trot Nixon puts one in the gap in right center, plating Mark Loretta and Manny Ramirez.

As the game winds down, the 20 or so Oriole fans in the building will leave early, in an attempt to get home before Leno or Letterman begins. As they exit, they have to brush off comments like "bettah luck tamarrah" or "tough break, buddy." As I said, generally, the Red Sox fans are not too bad. But you can always tell that they're looking at us poor Oriole fans and thinking, "What happened? You guys used to be contendahs?"

So I didn't go. And the Orioles lost 11-1 that day. And I'm pretty sure the atmosphere inside the stadium was just as I described.

I know that by not going, I am perpetuating the problem. But I feel helpless. I don't want to feel this way. None of us does. Someday this has to change, right? Someday it has to get better, doesn't it? Someday we'll start winning and local people will buy tickets before the Sox fans do, and we'll be able to enjoy Camden Yards again. Won't we? I hope so.

But as I sit here staring at the standings with the Orioles in fourth place ... again ... I just have no idea when that day might be.

Andrew Dale is a student at the University of Baltimore School of Law. His e-mail is atdale@gmail.com.

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