On Saturday night, I walked down to Camden Yards and bought a $10 Upper Reserved ticket. At some point, it became less $10 ticket and more like a $10 cover charge, the price for admission to a gorgeous urban gathering place and to the new Roof Deck in particular.
The choice seats on the new Roof Deck at Camden Yards are first-come, first-served. So far, that seems to be working. On Saturday night, a few fans wearing Minnesota Twins gear had successful commandeered a few of the front-row stools under the overhang, and no one seemed to begrudge them them. I'm sure pity played a factor.
The way this works, at least for now -- the Orioles have said they may revisit the way this works -- is that the Roof Deck is open to all ticket-holding fans, whether they paid $70 or $10. Oriole fans may not be thrilled when Yankee and Red Sox fans take over the yard. But Oriole fans aren't blind to the money visiting fans have been pumping into Baltimore's economy over the years.
But Yankee fans hogging the sweetest seats in the yard, that's another thing. Oriole fans have an advantage, though. They know about the Roof Deck. It might take a few road trips for Yankee fans to catch up.
Confession: I don't really get Yankee hatred. Unlike the hatred of Red Sox fans, which makes perfect sense to me, it doesn't really annoy me that someone who was inadvertently born in New York would root for their home-town team.
The Roof Deck sits just above the new concession stand that Gino's Burgers and Chicken shares with Stuggy's, a purveyor of gourmet hot dogs. On Friday, the Camden Dog, topped with crab mac-and-cheese, outsold Stuggy's other three dogs by a 10 to one margin, Stuggy's owner Stuart Perlberg told me.
On Saturday, I tried one of the new Gino's Camden Giants, a pile-up of a crab cake and hamburger on a sesame-seed bun. It worked for me. I think I'd like a different sauce, one that complements the crab cake and the burger both, but the crab flavor survives intact. It's an unpretentious sandwich, and an easy one to eat. It wouldn't work nearly as well with a jumbo-lump cake and an eight-ounce burger. As fast food, it's a fun treat, if no bargain -- $16 with fries.
Because I thought it was a new item, I tried the $5 bacon on a stick at the Jack Daniel's stand. But the maple-coated beauty actually debuted last year, I was told by an employee at the stand.
I sat in my actual reserved seat for about one inning. This was in the very back row of Section 288, which is the very end of the upper deck. This is where waves starts, and the fans on Saturday night successfully started a halfway decent one while I was there.
Then, more wandering. I wasn't the only one who spent time promenading the upper deck, enjoying the panoramic views of the city, including an eye-level view directly into the Hilton's pool.
The improved views from the Flag Court are for real, but short folks without a spot at the rail are still at a disadvantage. I prefer an alternative standing space in center field, just behind the visiting team's bullpen. Boorish heckling was a problem here on Saturday night until an Orioles usher routed the classless losers.
Dempsey's Brew Pub and Restaurant, which hasn't begun full meal service, was looking a little unloved on Saturday night, but it was the kind of beautiful weather that people can't bear to tear themselves away from.
Even when I wasn't exactly watching the game, I was always aware of how it was progressing. I felt close to the excitement even though I missed a lot of live action. Mostly I enjoyed being outside, hearing fans react to the game's good news, which kept coming on Saturday.
These days, 10 bucks buys you a lot of yard.
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