Tales from Crabtown

This crab hat is the only souvenir anyone in our group felt the need to acquire.I’m back from Baltimore, where I saw two amazing ballgames, and yet another last night back in friendly Fenway. Actually, I got back Sunday night, but between catching up on sleep, going to class, puzzling over financial aid paperwork, and watching J.D. Drew make awesome catches three feet in front of me, I haven’t had a chance to post.

Despite its reputation for high crime and poverty rates, what I saw of downtown Baltimore was clean and friendly, though I only had one full day there, and it was plagued by thunderstorms. I did manage to see the World Trade Center, which, at a whopping 27 stories, has to attempt to find a claim to fame in the fact that it is, apparently, the world’s tallest pentagonal building. I also got to the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse and the USS Constellation, the last all-sail ship built by the US Navy, both of which were legitimately cool (and mercifully dry).

Plus, I spotted a number of delightfully inaccurate signs. On Eutaw Street, a sign proclaiming “This is a no scalp zone” was flanked by a man scalping tickets and a cop declining to do anything about it. On a concrete patio in Camden Yards’ right center field, a sign asserting “This is a smoke free zone” was nearly obscured by the waves of smoke rolling off the Boog’s Barbecue tent across the way. And scattered around the Inner Harbor area where signs saying, “Downtown Baltimore welcomes you,” accompanied by this picture of the Baltimore skyline, which instead made me think that downtown Baltimore was giving me the finger.

For all you baseball fans, Camden Yards is absolutely as lovely as everyone says it is. Even from the third-to-last row in the upper deck, it’s a great place to watch a game. It was also, as befits its nickname of “Fenway Park South,” lousy with fellow Red Sox fans, who often drowned out “Let’s Go O’s” chants, and who lit up the park with camera flashes every time Manny Ramirez stepped to the plate. The one drawback was the scoreboard, which was constantly exhorting fans to clap or cheer or chant or sing, but which never offered any useful information. Since I’m used to Fenway, where the scoreboard will happily inform you of a player’s WHIP or OPS but never asks anything in return, this got really annoying.

But, oh, baseball lovers, there’s just no place like Fenway. I loved Camden Yards, where my knees were not in constant contact with my neighbors’, where no inconveniently placed poles obscured part of the field, where no one’s even heard of the Fenway Salute, and where, miracle of miracles, a man brought beer right to my seat, but nowhere else have I ever been wholly united, however briefly, with 37,000 other human beings. The Fenway Faithful made another verse of “Sweet Caroline” echo around yard when the speakers cut out before they decided they were done, they stood in unison to applaud an accomplishment 14 years in the making, they sighed as one when Jonathan Papelbon delivered a ball instead of a game-ending strike. It is a truly profound experience to be so utterly in tune with so many complete strangers. It is, I imagine, something like the experience religious people have in church.

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