In my ongoing quest to take advantage of the free time I have due to being unemployed, I did something I’ve never done in my illustrious career as a baseball fan: I went to Yankees Opening Day on the road.
The good news is that I showed up. The bad news is that most of the Yankees didn’t.
The drive to Baltimore started in silence — one hour of silence, to be exact. It turns out that when I got the transmission fixed on my car, they obviously had to disconnect the battery. When the battery is disconnected, it activates an incredibly annoying security feature in my car stereo that requires inputting a five-digit code before it will work again. If three attempts are unsuccessful, the stereo locks up. My mechanic apparently tried three times, and the only way to unlock the stereo is to drive for one hour with the system on, so I had no tunes until I was nearly off the New Jersey Turnpike.
Lack of audio aside, I pretty much drove through car-wash-like sheets of rain for the entire trip, but on the bright side, there was very little traffic, as only a moron would drive from Hoboken to Baltimore for a baseball game in that kind of weather.
Weather.com was dead-on, though. It stopped raining literally seconds before I parked my car, and the precipitation held off, other than a half-hour shower right before game time, which delayed the start a bit.
My first stop was Pratt Street Ale House, an outstanding brewpub a couple of blocks from the ballpark. It used to be known as Wharf Rat. My visit there consisted of a pint of outstanding porter, a pint of decent stout, another pint of porter and some good-natured ribbing from Orioles fans, whom I affectionately refer to as Baltimorons.
Then I entered Oriole Park at Camden Yards and headed straight for Boog’s BBQ and the pit beef platter. I’m drooling just thinking about it.
Orioles fans are lucky. Camden Yards was built just before suites and luxury boxes became the top priority for a ballpark. As impressed as I was with the new Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, frankly, I’d take Camden Yards over either one of them. Of course, neither of the New York ballparks has something like the warehouse building to work with, and, as I mentioned in my blog about Citi Field, the Yankees were trying to keep attributes of both previous renditions of Yankee Stadium prominent. But Camden Yards set the standard for the wave of new ballparks, and it’s still a special place to catch a ballgame.
My seats were also in a great area that has no counterpart in either New York stadium. It’s called club seating, but it’s nothing like the various clubs and suites in Yankee Stadium or Citi Field. For $50, I sat in the first row down the right field line — very decent vantage point — and had access to a climate-controlled indoor concourse area with various restaurants, bars and its own bathrooms. I first sat there on a 102-degree Sunday a few years ago, so I welcomed the air-conditioning break. Of course, Baltimore is going to be cheaper than New York, but neither the Yankees nor the Mets offer anything resembling this value.
Anyway, everything was great until the game started. CC Sabathia had nothing and the Yankees’ bullpen had even less. In a mirror image of too many games last season, the Yankees stranded 10 base runners and wasted numerous opportunities. Final score: Orioles 10, Yankees 5.
I figured I’d break up the three-hour-plus drive home with a stop for dinner, likely at one of the fast-food restaurants in a rest stop on I-95. Then, a stroke of genius occurred: WAFFLE HOUSE!
I absolutely love Waffle House and would probably weigh more than a circus elephant if there were any locations in New Jersey. In fact, the woman behind the counter told me the company explored expanding into the Garden State but didn’t do it because the way they clean their dishes doesn’t conform to New Jersey’s regulations. This made me sort of nervous, but it’s been more than 24 hours and I haven’t dropped dead yet.
After a waffle the size of a small pizza, scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon and toast, I bid goodbye to Maryland and headed back home, defeated but full.
Mmmm … Waffle House!