Andrew Stetka: Camden Yards charms continue to surprise

The first time I attended a baseball game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, I didn’t comprehend what I was doing there. I was merely a youngster, who couldn’t have understood the magnitude of the stadium. I knew I enjoyed it. I knew it was majestic and it was part of what caused me to fall in love with not only the Orioles, but with baseball as a whole.

There are certain things about it that draw you in. It’s the gardens outside home plate plaza, which always seem to be blooming with bright orange flowers. It’s the giant brick warehouse building, which carries its own distinct and unique history. Walking through the club level and seeing the official team photo of every Orioles squad in Baltimore history is a trip down memory lane that precedes my existence, but gives up a flavor of times long before the stadium stood. The two orange seats in the outfield (one in left field marking the spot of Cal Ripken’s 278th career home run to break Ernie Banks’ all-time record among shortstops and one in right field to mark the spot of Eddie Murray’s 500th career home run) are conversation starters. They give the stadium a history just like each bronze plaque on Eutaw Street marks every home run ever hit out there.

Oriole Park is now the 10th-oldest stadium in baseball, and it shows when you look around the league. That’s not because the park looks old or because everything else looks newer and shinier in comparison. At least half of those 20 other parks have been influenced by Camden Yards in some way. San Francisco’s AT&T Park has McCovey Cove in right field just like Oriole Park has Eutaw Street. Many stadiums like Progressive Field in Cleveland or Petco Park in San Diego have large and broad scoreboards similar to the one at Camden Yards. Colorado’s Coors Field has a full row of seats (marked in purple) in the upper deck that are exactly a mile above sea level.

There are many little things about Camden Yards that go unnoticed by some that make it so special. Like when the “H” or the “E” in the large advertisement for “The Sun” over the scoreboard flash to note whether a play was scored a hit or an error. Or how the flags representing each American League team in the flag court in right field are changed every day to mark the standings. You’ll notice this season that the Orioles have been stuck closest to the foul line as opposed to the bleacher seats. That’s not where they want to be, but each day, that’s how you know the standings.

The latest small detail I’ve learned about is one that isn’t visible to the fans. It may have never been discussed had Yankees beat writer Marc Carig not addressed it this week for The Athletic. Carig’s piece details an unofficial “wall of fame” located in the visitor’s clubhouse at Camden Yards. It now has 18 names on it. Not every one of them has played in the stadium. In fact, the latest person to sign it retired five years before Camden Yards opened up. Reggie Jackson, the one-time Oriole, put his mark on this sign on Friday night. The sign, which is actually an official MLB logo, now holds his name along with others like Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera and even noted bullpen phone destroyer David Ortiz. Former Yankees closer Mariano Rivera was the first to take a marker to the sign, which also features the signatures of Carlos Beltrán, Alex Rodriguez, Adrían Béltre and Hall of Famers Dennis Eckersley, John Smoltz and Bert Blyleven. Tigers great and Baltimore native Al Kaline also made his mark, but he’s not the most notable pitcher with ties to Baltimore to do so. Jim Palmer has also signed the logo, despite having never pitched at Camden Yards.

The Orioles are obviously in the midst of an abysmal campaign on the field. There’s no getting around it and there’s no making it better anytime soon. But learning these little things, these little details, about a stadium I know so well - it makes me happy. It reminds me that no matter how bad the baseball gets - and Oriole Park has seen its fair share of bad baseball - the experience and history built in the building will last for a very long time.

Andrew Stetka blogs about the Orioles for Eutaw Street Report. Follow him on Twitter: @AStetka. His thoughts on the O’s appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s continuing commitment to welcome guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. 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.

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