Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Baltimore Orioles

We all owe the Baltimore Orioles our gratitude. While many teams were content on playing in the multi-purpose concrete monstrosities known as “cookie cutter” ballparks, Baltimore decided to raze old Memorial Stadium and build a baseball-only ballpark. They did it in a retro-style that paid tribute to the ballparks of yore but with modern amenities. They incorporated local warehouses into the architecture and gave their new Camden Yards digs a very local flavor. Fans from all teams raved about the design and it was wildly successful. It was so popular that others followed suit and soon teams were blowing up their cookie cutters and building new retro-looking parks. Baltimore started the baseball-only park craze that gives us a great variety of hardball venues we have today. We owe Baltimore.

Orioles park was built in 1992. Hard to believe it is fast approaching its silver anniversary. The team has done a marvelous job of keeping it in tip-top shape and it should have no problem making it to its golden celebration. It is mainly red brick held together by green steel lattice and supports. The checkered outfield grass meets an angled outfield wall that has the Baltimore skyline looming over it. What is notably absent is the circus feel. No over the top kids zone, huge caricature structures or other distractions…..just baseball related necessities. That is what makes Orioles Park so great, it is as much about what it isn’t as about what it is. You can actually go there to just watch a game. There is a row of shops in the warehouse that is technically part of the ballpark, but it not attached to the ball playing structure. There is a reason this ballpark has been so widely copied.

Chef Josh Distenfield
Then there is the dog. The organization was nice enough to let me interview Executive Chef Josh Distenfield. He is responsible for creating some of the great dogs available and for keeping the quality of the regular dog high. Even more impressive, especially to me as an environmentalist, is that Josh has won a recent award for sustainability. He keeps all of his suppliers local and operations green. That in itself is something the Delaware North Company (which runs concessions in the park) should be really proud of. A dog goes down easier when you know it is a sustainable treat. If you know Maryland, you know it is famous for its crab. That is why, among other speciality dogs, the Orioles offer a crab mac and cheese dog. It’s a top seller and I was fortunate enough to try it in addition to the regular dog (which is the one I graded). I know...two dogs at one game. Relax… was seafood. And seafood is good for you.

Bun-Baltimore rivals Pittsburgh for the softest, freshest bun so far.
I Tackle the Crab Mac and Cheese Monster
Taste-the Esskay frank I had in Bowie only rated a 4.5, but the one in Baltimore was tastier. Josh explained it is likely the taste and texture from being prepared on a flat-iron grill versus a roller. Whatever it was it worked and earned the Esskay wiener top score.
Toppings-TWO, count ‘em, TWO types of mustard available. along with the rest. They had me at two types of mustard.
Price-for the size of the dog and toppings available $4.50 is a reasonable price.
Portability-Baltimore uses both a cardboard boat AND a cardboard tray. The duo works well together to keep any stray toppings within easy reach of the fork.
It Factor-there is an early bird dog that is basically a breakfast hot dog, a few others and of course the crab mac and cheese. A great selection of over the top dogs earns top score.

Location-it don’t get no more downtown than this.
Access-walk, drive, bike, train and light rail. Light rail has it own stop next to the stadium.
GA Ticket Price-my reviews are a snapshot in time. While my ticket would have normally been around $15, this Tuesday they were $9 bumping a 4 up to a 5. Timing is everything.
Cleanliness-as clean as the day it was built..
Fans-just enough fans to earn top score. I would have given them a 4 but they were really enthusiastic (this does not include the drunken, selfie-snapping crowd of 20 somethings sitting in front of me).
Ambiance-Half the teams in MLB have copied something from this you really need to ask if it gets top score?

Me and Boog
Also, two strange but pleasant things happened in Baltimore. Just outside of the ballpark the bar “Pickles” sells an “Oriole Dog.” It has a Nathan’s Famous frank and…..peanut butter, jelly and cream cheese. I thought about it but didn’t have the courage. If you want to eat it….I’ll buy it. And then, I got to meet Boog Powell. The Orioles slugger from the 60s and 70s. He was a premiere player in his day and could pound the ball. And he is a great guy as well.

DogBallparkTotal Dog/Game
Portability5GA Ticket Price5
It Factor5Fans5

This also means there is a new leader in the standings. With a combination of great dog and ballpark (and a little luck and timing with fans and ticket prices) Orioles Park gets the first perfect score of 60. That means if you are planning a baseball road trip, Baltimore should be on your list no matter what. I still have 7 parks to check out, but this is going to be a tough park to beat. Great job Baltimore.

1 comment:

  1. So a $9 ticket in Milwaukee is a four, a $9 ticket in Baltimore a five? Seems timing isn't everything!