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For Love of the Game by Hawkeye Pete Egan B.
 

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  • I used to go up there several times a year for a ballgame, usually with my buddy Bill, and we always had a good time there. I first went to a game there in 1993, the year after it first opened. It’s a ballpark that is impossible not to love, if you are a baseball fan. It was the first of the new trend in ballparks, taking the aspects of the old, old ballparks, like Fenway, Wrigley, Forbes Field, and incorporating them into the new, with state of the art facilities. It was a concept whose time had come, and just about every new park that’s been built since has followed suit. Part of the idea was to incorporate the park into the existing urban landscape, highlighting the local features in its construction and look, celebrating the local flavor, revitalizing the part of town in which it was built. It was a brilliant concept that’s been put to good use in cities all over. This one started it all. It’s now actually 22 years old, itself!

    Yet, I’ve stayed away for the past twelve years. Those first three years of my boycott were a real sacrifice, because it was the only place I could see a major league game without driving at least three hours, which is how far away Philadelphia is. After that, we had our Washington Nationals right here in D.C., where I could just go to a game at the drop of a hat, and I did. I went to 41 games that first season they were in town!

    So it was no longer a sacrifice to stay away from Camden Yards in Baltimore – it was, plain and simple, a matter of principle. I would not don the doors of a place owned and operated by the man who did everything he could to screw a third of his fan base, which was about the percentage of then-Orioles fans who came from the D.C. area to watch the Orioles play. Out of his fear that a team in Washington would cut too much into his attendance, he used all of his lawyerly talents and baseball team owner influence to try to keep a Washington team from happening.
  • In the process, he defeated his own purpose. He truly did lose a third of his fan base, but not because a team was now in Washington. What the fool didn’t realize was, a diehard fan like myself would have been perfectly happy to continue making the trek up to Baltimore three or four times a year to catch an American League game, to see some of the big A.L. stars and teams – he wouldn’t have lost a thing. But, selfish idiots generally can’t see that far ahead - they use all their energy and talent to protect what they believe they need to protect. But, you know what they say – when you are pointing your finger at someone else, your thumb is pointing back at – you! Yes, I was being a fool in my own right, and didn’t even see it.

    My boycott would have continued on, ad infinitum, but for the fact that I started going to these retreats up in Connecticut a couple years ago with my brother, where I discovered some other diehard baseball fans. One in particular, the guy there I’ve known the longest (aside from my brother), talked about coming down sometime during the season for a couple of games. We talked about it last year, but it didn’t happen. This year, he got “Chimney Bob” to come with him, and Bob followed through, making all the travel arrangements. The weekend they could come down was Labor Day Weekend, which happened to be a weekend the Orioles were in town, while the Nationals were in Washington – Seattle, Washington, that is! So, reluctantly, I decided to finally end my dozen-year-boycott and go up to a game with them.

    Once there, I realized – I missed this place! This was my baseball “home” for our first six years living down here, the closest thing I had to a home team. What a beautiful ballpark experience! The ballpark food – out of this world - Crabcakes, Boog Powell’s Barbecue, softshell crabs. The atmosphere – pure baseball love! The fans – real baseball fans. So what if they wear orange instead of red? They love their team, and they are caught up in penant fever this year - just like us Nationals fans. They didn’t even give me a hard time for wearing my protest get-up – my old school Washington Senators hat, my original Nationals road jersey, and my red Nationals sunglasses! They understood, as only other true diehard fans would. Not one person mentioned a thing to me about it. They were all nice – just fellow baseball fans.
  • I also had some fond memories of watching one of my favorite baseball players ever, Cal “Iron Man” Ripken, Jr., ply his trade on this field, game in and game out, as he broke one of baseball’s longest standing endurance records, held for decades by Lou “Iron Horse” Gehrig, when he played in 2,131 consecutive games, an amazing feat. The celebration of that feat, which happened right here, was clearly what brought baseball love back to MLB fans after they were disenchanted with Baseball for its player lockout the previous year, which resulted in no World Series for the first time since 1902. Cal had brought the love back to the game – right here! I came here to see his second-to-last game ever, in 2001. All those memories came back as I walked around this beautiful park.

    We were treated to a classic ballgame, where the lead went back and forth, runners got on every inning but the pitchers were tough, and pitched out of jams inning after inning, keeping it close and low-scoring. Finally, one of the Orioles hit a homerun that sealed the victory for the hometeam.

    Before the game, we had walked all around downtown Baltimore, had world famous crabcakes at Faidley’s in Lexington Market, walked around the Inner Harbor, went up to the top of the tallest building there for a fabulous view, walked past Babe Ruth’s birthplace, then wandered over to Camden Yards for a great night of baseball.

    I’ve decided it’s time to let bygones be bygones, and not let my principles and my disgust for one owner keep me from enjoying what I love, and from enjoying a team that’s almost as exciting as my own hometeam. He’s not worth it! Life’s too short to let petty things like a resentment keep me from living it as fully and enjoyably as I can. He’ll still be miserable no matter what I do, because people like that usually are. Me, I’m going to enjoy my life, and the game!
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