Baltimore – Oriole Park @ Camden Yards – Ballpark #11
With Chuck driving, we hit I-70, and we were on our way towards Baltimore. This was going to be our longest drive of the trip. Between me not feeling feeling so hot and knowing that this was the final push for Chuck, today had all the making of either being a terrible day… or an amazing one!
I gotta say the first 7 hours or so went by fairly fast for me as I was able to get a decent amount of sleep while Chuck took care of business. Other than gas or the quick restroom break, our first real stop, just as the sun was coming up, was on the outskirts of Columbus, OH (Hi Bob!) at a Waffle House for breakfast. Ever since I have known Chuck he has talked about his love for Waffle House and their not only good food, but cheap good food. I couldn’t disagree with him as I have been to many over the years, but it had actually been a few years since my last stop at one, so I was ready when we pulled in. Thankfully they weren’t too busy and we got our food really fast. Chuck had the rib eye steak, eggs & hash browns and I opted for the traditional biscuits & gravy with a large orange juice.
Breakfast was just what we both needed to get us motivated as we jumped back on the highway with Baltimore in our sights. This time, I was driving. Feeling much better, I was was excited to be back behind that wheel. I much more prefer to drive when I am on a road trip. I don’t do too well as a passenger. We were looking at roughly 420 more miles that would take us through the rest of Ohio and parts of West Virginia, Pennsylvania & Maryland. We had already gone about 417 miles and seen parts of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and half of Ohio. If today’s drive did nothing else, it sure gave us a good cross section of this fine country. We’d drive about 837 miles and get to see parts of 7 different states. Not too shabby for 1 day.
Knowing that we would be getting into the Baltimore area a few hours before the game, we really didn’t rush things at this point. We took our time at rest areas to stretch our legs and take some deep relaxing breaths of air. We would walk around reading the different tourist related signs or just enjoy the scenery. There was 1 rest area in particular, in Maryland, that had an amazing view of the valley and a river right out in front of it. I just stood there, looking. I was mesmerized. This was historical ground. The Civil War was fought in this part of the country and as I stood there looking out at the beautiful countryside I could only imagine what it must have been like back in the late 1800’s to have to walk through there on your way to your next battle. It kind of put things in perspective, ya know? Chuck & I were in “battle mode” trying to get from one ballpark to another to make games. Yet, when those kids walked through here, they were headed, most likely, to their death at the next battle. The longer I stood there looking, the more I could almost see them marching along side the river. It’s a moment that, while it might be silly to some, I will cherish for how it made me feel… thankful.
As we pulled into our hotel out by the airport in Baltimore, 2 things hit us: 1) we were finally in Baltimore and 2) there were police cars right outside the lobby door, WTF? The later didn’t last long as even before we could get out of our car to go check in, the officers came running out of the door, jumped in their cars and with tires squealing, were gone! We still have no idea what was going on, but it didn’t matter. All we wanted to do was check in so we could grab a shower, relax a few minutes and head into town and that is exactly what we did.
We were just outside of Camden Yards, looking for a parking spot, so we could meet a friend, Roger Ratzenberger, at the Sports Legends Museum, when it started to rain. It wasn’t a heavy rain, but it was a steady rain for sure. After meeting up with Roger, we walked over to the ticket window where another friend, Lori Martini, was going to meet us.
We got our tickets and stood just outside the Eutaw Street gate talking about Chuck’s situation. See, according to Guinness you can only enter a ballpark ONE time, unless that second time is to finish a game that was postponed previously. If you enter a ballpark and the game is called due to rain, you are SOL! I had spent a few times on the phone with Chuck during this trip, and back in 2009, discussing this so I knew he had a choice to make. However, it hit him and I don’t know why it didn’t hit me first, that if he missed this game, the best he could do is TIE so there was no reason not to try it. As he said, “A tie is like kissing your sister”. That makes perfect sense, so in we went hoping for the best!
As we walked in the gate we were handed a box with a really cool looking Frank Robinson mini statue. They had honored him earlier in the day with the 1st of a few statues that will be placed around the ballpark. It was amazing to me how many people came, got their statue and left. Maybe it was the game, maybe it was the fact they were playing the Oakland Athletics (I say watch out for these guys, Moneyball baby!) or maybe it was just that people wanted to be able to sell theirs on eBay, but there was a lot of people walking back out after being handed their box. No matter, I put mine in my backpack and when I did I noticed the umbrella I got as a stadium giveaway in Minneapolis at Target Field… SCORE! Btw, Lori ended up with several of these statues, a big black garbage bag almost full actually and plans to sell them on eBay. Good for her, I hope she makes a killing!
I am no stranger to rain at Camden Yards. At one of my two games in 2010 it not only rained, it POURED! I got soaked to the bone, but enjoyed every moment of it. In previous years I had also been at least 2 other games where it rained. This time, thanks to the Minnesota Twins, I was prepared for it. As Chuck & Lori did the usual pregame walk around the ballpark, I sat there in the 1st row in center field with my red, white & blue umbrella over me, eating my BBQ sandwich from Boog’s and talking to Roger about not only baseball but the trip so far. Since it was raining, they didn’t have batting practice, so we had plenty of time to just sit there and talk before the pregame ceremony to honor Frank Robinson, which was attended by some of the greats like Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer and even Hammering Hank Aaron!
The good news is that despite the rain, the game would be starting on time. I got to admit that I think that really surprised us all, but we were all for it. Come game time it was really dark, but 1st pitch was at 7:06pm and the game was on! Now all we had to do was hope for an early Orioles run and make it to the middle of the 5th and in the bottom of the 2nd, we got just that as the O’s put a 5 spot on the board for a 5-0 lead. Baltimore added another run in the 3rd and by the time we hit the middle of the 5th, it was 6-0 Orioles and Chuck had broke his previously held Guinness World Record for getting to all 30 Major League Ballparks for a full game the fastest. The record, which was 24 days, was now officially 23 days! There was 26,926 people in attendance tonight, yet there was only 4 of us that knew why the 4 of us were high-fiving after the last out of the top of the 5th. There was only 4 of that knew that history had just be made. There was only 4 of that really cared at that moment and that’s all that mattered to us. At that moment it was as if the black clouds and rain had gone away. It was time to celebrate and celebrate is what we did as we all took to Twitter & Facebook to share the good news. At that point the game almost because secondary to us. I can tell you that as we celebrated, the Orioles put another 3 runs up in the bottom of the 5th and then each team tacked on 1 more later in the game before it ended, with it still raining, as a 10-1 Orioles win.
Once the game was over, we took our time walking around Eutaw Street getting pictures. We went over to the plaza area in right field, by the flag poles, to get pictures of all of us 4. We did what we could to prolong the celebration before the ushers eventually told us we had to go. They had to be miserable with it still cold and raining, but not us. We were having a great time no matter what and it continued as we left the ballpark. Eventually we had to head our separate ways, but we made plans to meet up again in a few days for another game.
As I got to my car, by myself since Chuck was helping Lori get stuff to hers, I sat there thinking. Thinking what it must be like to be Chuck right now. Even though you planned a trip that would have you shattering the Guinness World Record (it was originally set to be a 30 in 20 run) and that didn’t happen thanks to flight problems (a delay in Texas and 2 cancellations), but you yourself ran a perfect schedule… you still managed to break the record! I sat there wondering what that felt like and couldn’t wait to hear what Chuck had to say when he got there. As soon as he climbed into the car, after having him sign my ticket stub from the game “30-23” (the only one of these collectors items in existence), I looked over at him, smiled and said, “Congrats, how do you feel?” I think he summed it all up best with his 1 word answer. I felt there was nothing else to be said, so after he said it, we just laughed and we pulled out of the parking garage with “Believe” once again blasting. What did he say? Well, he said he was feeling…. “Tired” 🙂