Have you ever celebrated a birthday at the ballpark? I’ll be part of a celebration for my niece’s birthday this evening at Camden Yards. She’s turning 12 and decided that she wants to go to the baseball game with her family to mark the occasion. Smart girl. Happy birthday, Emily!
My father surprised me with a birthday trip to the ballpark on the day I turned 17. Camden Yards was about to open its gates for the first time and the team held a dress rehearsal in the form of an exhibition game against the New York Mets.
In addition to my Orioles loyalties, I had developed an affection for the Mets as a kid. (Don’t worry, like my old Starter jacket, I grew out of it.) I was the only student in my Middle School cheering for the 1986 Mets versus the Boston Red Sox in the World Series, or at least it seemed that way. I took quite a bit of heat on that big yellow school bus ride each morning, so much so that I declared I would burn my Mets hat if they lost. Thankfully, the only thing that went up in flames was Bill Buckner.
The Mets’ visit to Baltimore also brought one of my childhood heroes home. You may remember that Eddie Murray played for the Mets in 1992, so I had a chance to join in the “Ed-die, Ed-die” cheers at the new ballpark just as I had done at the old ballpark. And all that’s not to mention the fact that I was getting a sneak peek at the Orioles’ new home before most everyone else.
My ballpark birthday was a surprise. Dad came to the cafeteria during my lunch hour, tickets in tow, and sprung me from school to head to the new stadium. My 17-year-old self was embarrassed by the parental guest appearance at school; I can only hope I’ll do something equally as “uncool” for my own kids one day.
Earlier this season, I wrote about another birthday ballpark surprise when we celebrated my 40th birthday in a suite at Camden Yards this past April. The nice thing about ballpark birthdays is that you can have them more than once and each one is special in its own way.
Of course, not all occasions at the ballpark turn out to be so special. I once witnessed a ballpark proposal at a Durham Bulls minor league baseball game that was about as well executed as a botched rundown.
The groom-to-be, I learned, had the ring with him at the game and decided rather spontaneously to propose that night. The ballpark staff accommodated his last-minute request and posted his “Will You Marry Me?” message on the scoreboard between innings. The only hitch in this inspired effort to get hitched is that the groom was out buying beers when the message appeared. At least he wasn’t busy doing the wave.
Shortly thereafter, the man of the moment received a visit from ballpark security, who was prepared to eject him from the stadium. Turns out he decided to mark an already memorable evening with an additional souvenir. He had hopped onto the field to snag a ball from the first base side bullpen for his blushing bride. After a stare down with the bullpen catcher and local police, our protagonist was given a pass. No word if his fiancée did the same for him. Best of luck to the happy couple!
The Orioles haven’t been much fun to watch of late, and I have some sour memories associated with tonight’s opponent. Nevertheless, thanks to my niece, there’s no place I’d rather be this evening than at the baseball game.
Matthew Taylor blogs about the Orioles at Roar from 34. Follow him on Twitter: @RoarFrom34. His ruminations about the Birds appear as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.