The Orioles’ home opener is April 4, meaning that baseball will soon be back, and all will be well with the world.
Hopefully, everyone is as excited about Opening Day as Glen Burnie’s Sarah Robinson, a rabid fan known to the faithful as Baltimore Bird Lady. She and thousands of others have their tickets in hand and are primed to root for the O’s as they go up against the Evil Empire (a.k.a. the Yankees) beginning at 3:05 p.m. But maybe you want to take your celebration of the National Pastime’s return even further and immerse yourself in the baseball experience beyond a sunny afternoon (fingers crossed) at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
With all you fine folks in mind, we offer this guide to celebrating beyond Opening Day. Sure, next Thursday’s booked for the O’s, but there are six other days in the week that need to be filled.
1. Visit the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum
This one will take you very near Oriole Park at Camden Yards – only “a long fly ball away,” as its ad campaigns have repeatedly touted. And as far as baseball shrines with national significance are concerned, this may be the best in the country, outside of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
In this unassuming rowhouse, George Herman Ruth Jr., the greatest player in Baseball history and among the most prominent figures of the 20th century, was born on Feb. 6, 1895. Nearly torn down in the 1960s, it was saved through a public fundraising campaign and opened to the public. Today, visitors can see the room where Babe was born, a hymnal from his days at St. Mary’s Industrial School, an exhibit on all the players who have hit 500 home runs, even bats the Babe used to launch some of his mammoth home runs.
The museum is holding its own block party from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. on Opening Day. Combo tickets that include admission to the game are long sold out, but party-only tickets are available for $60.
215 Emory St., Ridgely’s Delight. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily beginning April 1, until 7 p.m. on home-game nights. $5-$10 , free for kids under 5. baberuthmuseum.org.
2. Catch a Minor League game
Maybe you couldn’t score the seats you wanted for Opening Day, or big crowds aren’t your style, but you still want to see some pro ball next week.
Thanks to the Orioles’ Maryland-centric farm system, four of the team’s minor-league affiliates play within 125 miles of Baltimore. And three of them start their seasons right around the same time as the big boys.
In Frederick, the Keys (milb.com/frederick) open their season on the same day as the O’s, although nearly four hours later, at 7 p.m. Or you could check out the Keys on Friday, April 5, when the Orioles have an off-day scheduled; game time is 7 p.m., and tickets run $7-$15.
As for the other minor-league Orioles affiliates? The Bowie Baysox (milb.com/bowie) open their home season April 11, against Harrisburg – the same day the Delmarva Shorebirds (milb.com/delmarva) start their home season in Salisbury against Lakewood. Cal Ripken’s team, the Aberdeen Ironbirds (milb.com/aberdeen), don’t start their short-season schedule until June 14.
3. Drop in on our Beltway rivals
For those rabid baseball fans who can’t wait to see the big boys in action, a trip south on I-95 could be in order. Our National League neighbors, the Washington Nationals, open their home season March 28 against the Mets, a full week before the O’s. They also play the Mets March 30-31, then welcome the Phillies for games on April 2 and 3.
Sure, D.C.’s Nationals Park is no OPACY, but Nats fans are largely a welcoming bunch, National League baseball has its perks (like seeing pitchers bat, an aspect of the game that seems to be doomed, judging by proposed rules changes that are already in the works) and it’ll be interesting to see for ourselves how much the Nationals will miss Bryce Harper.
Park at the New Carrollton rail station off U.S. 50 and take the D.C. Metro to the game. It’s only a block or two walk from the Metro stop to the stadium (true, it’s farther than from light rail to Orioles Park), and parking in the area can be tough to come by.
And if your early-season visit works out, maybe you’ll want to visit Nationals Park again, when the Orioles take on the Nats there Aug. 27-28.
Nationals Park, 1500 South Capitol St. SE, Washington, D.C. $11-$415. mlb.com/nationals.
4. Reminisce at the Memorial Stadium site
From the time they re-entered the major leagues in 1954 until Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened its doors in 1992, major league baseball in Baltimore was headquartered at Memorial Stadium. There, crowds as large as 52,000 fans saw the Orioles win three World Series, saw Brooks Robinson and Jim Palmer play their entire careers, saw Frank Robinson win the Triple Crown and Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken Jr. as rookies.
The stadium itself is long gone, shuttered for good in 1997, following the Ravens’ brief stay there, demolished in 2002. But the baseball memories remain. Driving the streets that surround the YMCA and senior apartments that now occupy the spot, you can still see some of the entrances that once funneled traffic onto the stadium parking lots. The white houses along 36th Street that used to give batters fits (the ball would blend into the house when it left the pitcher’s hand) still stand, quietly tormenting.
Baseball, too, is still played on the site, thanks to a field donated to the Y by the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation. Its home plate sits right where home plate at Memorial Stadium used to be, and a plaque explains some of what went on during those fabulous 37 seasons the Orioles played here; you can stop by anytime and gaze back through the years.
900 E. 33rd St., Ednor Gardens-Lakeside.
5. Tour New Cathedral Cemetery
It’s been written that more baseball Hall-of-Famers are buried here than in any other cemetery, and until someone proves us wrong, we’re going to claim the distinction as a Baltimore badge of honor.
The four, all of whom played for the 19th-century Orioles (a flock of Birds that revolutionized the game with their speed, zealousness and perhaps a touch of chicanery) are 2nd baseman John McGraw (who would go on to even greater fame as manager of the New York Giants), catcher Wilbert Robinson (who later managed the Brooklyn Dodgers for 17 years), outfielder Joe Kelley and manager Ned Hanlon (who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1996, the same year as one of his spiritual descendants, Earl Weaver).
McGraw, probably the most famous of the four, has the most auspicious grave, a large, columned tomb in the middle of a hill, with the words “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord” engraved above the entrance. Be sure to stop at the cemetery office — to the left as you drive onto the grounds — to get a map with locations of the cemetery’s famous burials noted; finding all four Hall-of-Famers should take about 45 minutes.
6. Enjoy some college ball
Area college teams have been playing since February, meaning they’ve had to endure some pretty cold baseball weather, far worse than their major-league counterparts down in Florida.
The Johns Hopkins University Blue Jays played their first game Feb. 24, beating Arcadia University, 14-1; they play their home games on Babb Field at Stromberg Stadium on JHU’s Homewood campus, 3400 N. Charles St., and have a doubleheader scheduled there for March 30 against Muhlenberg College (hopkinssports.com).
Out at Towson University, the Tigers opened their season Feb. 15, losing to Davidson, 13-5; their home games are played at John B. Schuerholz Park on campus, 8000 York Road, where they’ll be taking on George Washington University April 3 (towsontigers.com).
The Coppin State University Eagles have been playing since Feb. 15, when they beat Savannah State, 8-7. They play their home games at Anne Arundel County’s Joe Cannon Stadium, 7611 Ridge Chapel Road in Hanover, and have games scheduled there March 29-31 (coppinstatesports.com).
And at UMBC, the Retrievers have been at it since Feb. 22, when they beat UNC Asheville, 3-2. Their home games are played on Alumni Field on the school’s Catonsville campus, 1000 Hilltop Circle; they’ll be taking on Navy there April 3 (umbcretrievers.com).
Best news of all: no admission charge for any of these four teams!
7. Head to the batting cages
Looking to work on your own timing at the plate? The Baltimore area offers a number of batting cages for the major-league wannabes (or wish-we-coulda-beens) among us. They range from the frills-free pleasures of Anne Arundel County’s Pasadena Golf Center, which offers four softball and five baseball batting cages (4358 Mountain Road, pasadenagolfcenter.com) to the indoor joys of Baltimore County’s Extra Innings, where you can get private instruction, work out in your own batting tunnel (at $100-$210 per half-hour) or simply swing away at one of four batting cages, where tokens that will get you 18 pitches start at $1 each, and get cheaper the more you buy. (7904 Rossville Blvd. in Essex, extrainnings-baltimorenorth.com).
A couple quick pointers: Start off slow (you’ll be amazed at how fast a baseball moving at 40 mph will whiz past), wear your helmet and, by all means, invest in a batting glove (trust us, callouses are no fun).
More batting cages can be found at: Bases, 713 E. Ordinance Road, Glen Burnie (basestrainingfacility.com); Rocky Gorge 4 Seasons Golf Fairway, 8445 Old Columbia Road in Laurel (rockygorgegolf.com); Howard County’s Columbia SportsPark, 5453 Harpers Farm Road (columbiaassociation.org); and Harford County’s Churchville Golf Center, 3040 Churchville Road (churchvillegolf.com).
8. Browse some baseball cards
They don’t come in a packet with a stick of gum anymore, and their investment value isn’t what it used to be. But baseball cards are still big business and a surefire way to bring a touch of major-league glamour into your life.
The Baltimore area is home to several baseball card and sports memorabilia shops, all of which are chock-full of cards, for the O’s and every other team. Sadly, however, we should note that the first set of Topps 2019 Orioles cards, which will generally run you about $2-$4, includes ex-O’s Caleb Joseph, Tim Beckham and – how we miss him already – Adam Jones.
Among the shops you could visit: Baseball Card Outlet, 7502 Eastern Ave. in Eastwood (bbcoutlet.com); Great Moments, in Westminster, at 531-B Jermor Lane, and White Marsh, 8800 Belair Road (greatmomentsinc.com); D&J Baseball Cards, 4709 Leeds Ave. in Halethorpe (410-242-5836) and The Dugout Zone, which was set to close earlier this year but instead moved to a new location, 9011 Chevrolet Drive #14 in Ellicott City (dugoutzone.com).