The Orioles held an event today honoring the 20th anniversary of the park at Camden Yards, showing off some of the new additions for 2012. They were nice enough to invite me (so that I could estimate the deliciousness above replacement of the new food, I assume). The weather was fantastic, and seeing the green grass and the stands and the scoreboard and whatnot was great - my excitement for Opening Day was cranked up to at least a 6.
As I was waiting to be let in (outside), I heard a deep voice behind me; turned around and was face to mustache with Fred Manfra.
Rick Demspey was there, open to discussing his restaurant (Dempsey's) opening up out behind the flag court sometime soon. We were invited to try the beef ribs with mashed potatoes and fried onions. When I went over to the table, there were three plates of it sitting out and I took one - and was stopped by the server. They were just for show - we actually got to try the fresh and warmed up version (which was pretty good), and were asked to submit a name for it (they're going to select a submission for the signature offering - no ideas myself, but I didn't think "Rick Dempsey's _________" would be appropriate, given the relative fanciness of the dish). Also, someone told us if we were going to tweet about it, we should use the hashtags #likeit or #loveit. Maybe I'm behind the times, but it's a liitle off-putting being told to hashtag things by a human being in person (sort of like the idea of your mom being on Facebook). Doing a quick search, I don't see anything hashtagged with #likeit or #loveit relating to the Orioles - maybe I misunderstood (or maybe they didn't fully think that one through).
Beyond that, there were rockfish tacos, hotdogs with mac and cheese and crab, bottles of Natty Boh with large/thick cuts of bacon* sticking out of them (plus that same bacon on a stick, which will be sold at the park this year), cake on a stick, crab cakes, hotdogs, etc. Also, a bar with some relatively fancy drinks (and small bottles of water, so I had to return to that well repeatedly). All very nice (not that I had most of it; but it looked good). It was amusing watching certain people taking the plates of food, positioning them just so, and taking a picture or video before eating (glad my responsibility there as a member of the "media" was "have some food and look around").
* My off-hand "that's some serious bacon" was met with a glare from the server for some reason. If you're a bacon fan, look out for it though, I guess.
This was all done out on the flag court, where they showed off the new lower right-field wall. Taking four feet off the scoreboard might make for better viewing, but Camden Yards isn't exactly a pitcher friendly park already (over the past 5 years, the O's have given up the most home runs in the majors - 959 (192 a year) - and it's not like they have a ton of left-handed power on the team). We'll see how that goes.
Out in center-field above the high hitter's background they've built a bar area, where anyone with a ticket will be admitted. That too was nice - the view of the field is good, and it seems like it'll be a fun environment. Maybe not on college nights (or, rather, too much "fun", if you will), but you can't have it all.
When leaving, I was given a copy of Orioles Magazine, which had quick-fire Q&A with a bunch of players. A sample (mostly paraphrased):
Q: Favorite school subject?
JJ Hardy, Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters, and Brian Matusz all went with Math. Tommy Hunter picked recess.
Q: Favorite TV show?
Best answers were probably Wieters with Modern Family, Reimold with The Wire (sucking up to the home-town faithful?), or Matusz with South Park. Robert Andino apparently loves Wheel of Fortune; I'm not sure a 63 year-old has ever played second-base in the majors before.
Q: What do you wish you could do?
Kevin Gregg: Run Fast... Matt Wieters: Run Faster (not "faster than Gregg", I assume, but "faster than currently"). I like that Wieters isn't shooting for the stars there. Neither is JJ Hardy (Attend the Australian Open - I'm not sure what's stopping him). Tsuyoshi Wada goes with the practical (Speak English). Chris Davis wants to fly a plane, while Markakis and Tommy Hunter think outside the box (just "Fly" in general). Zach Britton and Taylor Teagarden are looking more at alternate career paths (astronaut and surgeon, respectively).
Alfredo Simon (now with the Reds) was listed on the team roster, by the way.
So... good times. Got to see some fellow bloggers, talk some baseball. The product on the field might not be the best, but at least the park's nice.