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Baltimore Orioles @
Washington Nationals

March 29, 2008

Unexpectedly late in the night after the Nats exhibition ballgame, a lifelong friend took his own life in Vermont. Scott was only 39 years old and tragically left behind a five year old daughter Sophia. Scott and I attended Orioles ballgames many moons ago together. May the Lord grant his soul peace.

Take me out to a Ballgame

    Saturday, March 29, 2008

by Timothy Tilghman

My Aunt Jo is the bird lover in the family. (Actually, she's the Patron Saint of Cats!) Auntie Jo had been a season ticket holder for the Baltimore Orioles longer than I can recall now. Her final Orioles ballgame was in Saint Petersburg against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on July 17, 2004. Her son bought primo seats behind home plate for the three of us.

The Huge Rage within the nation over the last score has been for ballclubs around the country to clamor for a new sports facility. The Baltimore Orioles played their final baseball game at Memorial Stadium on Sunday, October 6, 1991. I took Aalecc (well, his mother spelt it this way on his birth certificate) at the last moment when he called and asked to go.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards which opened in Spring 1992 was an immediate national hit. Steve and I scrounged up a pair of tickets behind home plate for the exhibition ballgame vs. the New York Mets played on April 3, 1992. I clearly remember enjoying that unique ballgame immensely more so than the official inaugural ballgame at Oriole Park.

On Opening Day vs. the Cleveland Indians April 6, 1992, I paid $40 to Dave (a N.J. scalper I bought field Stones tickets at Philly in August 1989) who walked me into Camden Yards and kept the souvenir ticket! Coincidentally, George Harrison staged his only solo live appearance in London at the Royal Albert Hall on that same evening. Bloody; had I known that George was hosting a concert, I would have booked a flight to attend his gig instead!

As it was, I had trouble finding anybody to go to the Nationals Park Exhibition Ballgame on Saturday, March 29, 2008. Then on Friday, I started calling people I had forgotten to buzz. I ended up bringing a Party of Five to the Nats new home in the SouthEast quad. Steve, who joined me at the Camden Yards exhibition ballgame in 1992, brought his daughter. My cousin Eric (middle brother of two Orioles Batboys) and a friend John rounded out the group.

My Party rode the Metrorail Green Line in from the Branch Avenue Station. NO tickets were on sale at the box office. I was unaware that ALL exhibition tickets had been given away to season ticket holders and stadium construction workers. A former supervisor has had season tickets for the Washington Nationals since the team was launched in the Capitol. He ended up not going and toasted his pair of exhibition tickets.

I went to work calling out for extra tickets outside Nationals Park. I soon discovered that exhibition seats had no face value printed on the ticket. Time was ticking as we got to the Navy Yard stop after 5:30 pm. Once I focused on securing tickets, I ended up with nine or eleven FREE Nats tickets. We gave away the remaining Nats seats and headed into the new District ballpark.

We decided to take our scattered seats and exchange them at the box office for five tickets together in the same outfield section. We ended up directly across from home plate. Maybe it's just me, but the new Nationals Park reminded me of old style yards built at the turn of the century with a smidgen of Ravens Stadium design thrown in for good measure. Sixteen years later, Oriole Park at Camden Yards is still an impressive sports field.

Our Party of Five had a good time regardless of the fact that the Orioles were playing like garbage. The weather was chilly though. The Nats only granted fans one coupon in their designated driver program: a welcome hot chocolate. However, the Nats concession lines dragged on forever! If you thought service at RFK Stadium was bad, look out! Prepare to waste your time in line and miss a good deal of the field action.

Personally, I enjoy seeing the Orioles play ball at Washington and the Nationals play ball in Baltimore. I missed out on Orioles visits to Philadelphia when Cal Ripken, Jr., was on the team. The only roadtrip I organized was a disastrous Orioles ballgame at Yankees Stadium. We went up for Allen's birthday weekend in April 2007, but the Orioles went down in flames spectacularly. I did attend an Oakland play off game vs. Toronto in October 1992.

My baseball allegiance remains with the Baltimore Orioles, but I have made a minimum of three Washington Nationals ballgames a season since 2005. Traveling to RFK Stadium via the Metrorail was an easy journey, and the change of scenery was welcome as Brian blessed me with pairs of extra Nats tickets that he could not use himself.

A political science instructor had excess 1988 Orioles season tickets and asked students in my class who had interest in purchasing or selling off tickets. I volunteered to sell & buy tickets. I am a live music fan first much more than a sports fan, but I began taking family and friends to Orioles ballgames because Baseball is an American pastime.

I remember seeing Bob Rivers of WIYY 98 Rock in the stands of Memorial Stadium. During the 1988 season, his radio campaign claimed he would stay on the air and broadcast live until the Baltimore Orioles broke their on-going losing streak and won a ballgame.

I attended Orioles Opening Day ballgames from 1989 through 1994. I also arranged and sold tickets to group fundraising nights at Orioles ballgames. That is up until the 1994 baseball strike. My attendance dropped off drastically and never actually recovered. Since 1995, I skipped Opening Day and catch only a handful of Orioles ballgames during any given season to the present day.

My younger sister worked at the Memorial Stadium Hit & Run Club during the late 1970s. Plus, I had two cousins that were Orioles Batboys around the same time period. My Aunt Jean lived four blocks from Memorial Stadium. I remember my Mom squeezing her gray Beetle into a tight spot behind Nanny's house when we would visit. Auntie Jean and Nanny had homes at the opposite ends on the same street block on East 33rd Street.

Growing up, I recall my Father taking me and my two sisters to Orioles and Colts games at Memorial Stadium. I don't have any particularly vivid memories of sporting events as a child. A friend visiting from Indiana got me out to the ballpark again for Orioles ballgames in Summer 1983. When the Orioles defeated the Phillies in October 1983, I remember an ex-neighbor acting up over the Orioles becoming World Series Champions.

As a Baltimore Orioles season ticket holder, Aunt Jo would invariably have spare tickets she could not use. I would trade them in for pairs so we could attend ballgames together. We caught the Birds at both Memorial Stadium and Camden Yards over the years. It was relaxing going to a ballgame with Aunt Jo. She always had her trusty radio ready whenever the team were playing away on the road.

I never got to take Auntie Jo to an Aberdeen IronBirds ballgame. I have been to Ripken Stadium twice; during their opening series in 2002, and another ballgame in July 2007. Ironbirds fans take their minor league ballgames seriously. I have caught several minor league ball teams over the years including Bowie, Harrisburg, Nashua, and Wilmington.

2008 Timothy Tilghman