I was one of the many Phillies fans who made the pilgrimage down I-95 this weekend to watch the Phillies play the contending (and entertaining) Baltimore Orioles. I expected to see plenty of Phillies fans in Baltimore but was not expecting such a large sea of red. Phils fans came in by the busloads and took over the park. The road trip made sense for the Phillies faithful. Baltimore is a beautiful city that is a fast two-hour drive, and the Phils have not played there in six years, so it brought a combination of both rarity and comfort.
I have always had great things to say about Baltimore. It is one of my favorite cities, not only for sports but also the Harbor Area and the atmosphere around the ballpark. Camden Yards, to me, is the originator. It is a stadium that gives you a sense of history even though it is only 20 years old. The ballpark is not comparable to Fenway or Wrigley in terms of a historic level, but to a guy who was around 10 years old for its first season, it does hold a special place in my heart. As I sat in my seats in left field, I instantaneously looked out past right field to the famed walls of the warehouse and had flashbacks of Ken Griffey Jr. hitting home runs in the derby all those years ago. Orioles Park brought back memories that I haven’t thought of in years.
As far as the games went, the outcomes were not exactly what a Phillies fan would want. Losing two straight on walk-off hits after taking the first game of the series was not ideal, but it did show me something about this Orioles team. They have fight in them! They basically were playing away games in their home park, but they did what they had to do and stood their ground, gaining the respect of the Phillies fans. For the most part, there were not any incidents. The atmosphere was not as vicious as a New York vs. Philly or Boston vs. Philly game. Baltimore fans were courteous, and the ones that I spoke to were very knowledgeable. The Phillies, on the other hand, continued to struggle and now find themselves eight games out of first place. The offense provided runs this series, but the pitching somehow gave up every lead it had. Cliff Lee is still winless, and there is no immediate answer to their struggles.
Fielding errors and blown leads did not ruin my time spent in Baltimore this weekend. The heartache that the Phils are putting me through was nothing that a few Natty Bohs could not fix. If anything, watching this young Orioles team was like taking a time machine back to the 2005-2006 Phillies teams that never seemed like they were out of any games. The only thing missing is Adam Jones proclaiming them the team to beat in the AL East (just as Jimmy Rollins did for the Phils in 2007).
In all honesty, it is difficult to think that the O’s will continue to compete with the likes of the Yankees and the Rays, but for now, seeing a ballgame at Orioles Park is a ticket well worth the price of admission. It is great to have the Orioles competing again. Hopefully they can stay in the race so I can take another trip down this summer, even if the Phillies aren’t playing.