So, when I left off on the Baltimore part of the trip in my last post, we had to leave the hotel in Harrisburg rather early, around 7:30 or 7:45. Our goal was to make the 10am tour at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, where the Baltimore Orioles play. It's normally less than a 90 minute drive, but with it being rush hour and us not being particularly clear on parking or how long it might take to get tickets, we wanted to leave some wiggle room. In the end, the trip was very smooth, nearly no rush hour traffic! We arrived by 9:30, parked in a lot near the stadium, and braved the bitter cold to walk over to where we needed to get tickets. It was probably in the 40s that day, but there was a stiff breeze that made outside time less than enjoyable.
As we started our walk, this was the far end of the warehouse that is in right field at the park, the one that famously held the numbers that counted up Cal Ripken, Jr.'s consecutive game streak.
Eventually we found our way to the ticket counter, and then we had to wait out on Eutaw St., which is a pedestrian street that runs between the stadium and the warehouse that's open to the public except when there's a game.
From there, you could access a restaurant and the team store, and see the back of the scoreboard.
Eventually our tour started, and our guide was a nice older man that seemed to be living the dream by working for the team in some sort of ticketing/fan experience role. He gave us a ton of history of the ballpark (and its predecessor), then started walking us through the park. We saw this gorgeous patio with statues of the Orioles' greats, which is also open to the public most of the time.
|Cal Ripken, Jr.|
|Interesting fun fact: The green wall on the far left of the picture is a nod to Fenway Park's Green Monster, and the ivy on the wall to the right of that is a tribute to Wrigley Field's outfield wall.|
|The white above the seats behind home plate is actually the weatherproofed press box.|
We visited the club level, saw the cool themed lounges that line the inside halls there, and visited a luxury suite. From there you could see the wonderfully restored train station at the far end of the warehouse.
We also visited the production facilities (ahhh, brought back memories) and the press box, which was actually a bit more rudimentary than I expected given how amazing the rest of the facility was. But you can't beat the press box view:
Then, we got the even more exciting chance to go down to the field and hang out in the home dugout! It was such a cool feeling to be down there.
|View from the front rail of the dugout|
|The boys on the warning track...and yes, it was cold.|
|In the dugout|
Soon it was time to end the tour and head back toward the warehouse. I liked this view of the scoreboard, warehouse, patio area, and the foul pole, which is an original from the old Memorial Stadium.
|Funny note--see those little flagpoles on the patio? They're all cushioned, just in case someone's running to catch a home run and doesn't look where they're going!|
Back on Eutaw St., our guide pointed out little plaques for every home run ball that's been hit out there. Interestingly, only one has ever been able to hit the warehouse--mostly because of wind currents--and it was only during the All-Star Game's Home Run Derby, courtesy of Ken Griffey, Jr. We wandered around looking for favorite teams or players, like this one from Jacob's current team of choice, the now-defunct Montreal Expos.
Before we visited the team store, we went to another stadium area that's open to the public. There was a statue of Babe Ruth, who was born in Baltimore, not far from the stadium, in fact.
Nearby were statues of all of the retired numbers, and both kids got their pictures next to significant ones...
|For his age, of course!|
|Not his age...but his lacrosse number!|
And at the last minute he settled on one of those popper toys where the ball (in this case a little foam baseball) goes in the mouth (in this case, of the mascot) and you squeeze the belly to make it pop out. It's pretty funny and it made him very happy to find something.
We walked back to our car to head to activity #2. Along the way we saw a double-amputee marathoner passing through, as well as a cool war memorial. Just across the parking lot was another stadium, M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens. It actually looked even better when we passed by at night, when the upper seats were lit purple!
Our next stop was Fort McHenry, which was just a short way outside of downtown. After our trip to Old Fort Niagara, we were eager to see another historical fort. Fort McHenry, of course, is known as the home of the Star-Spangled Banner.
|Francis Scott Key, spyglass in hand that he used to see the flag, and a version of the flag with 15 stars and stripes|
Eventually we followed a tour group outside, but it was freezing and the kids' patience only went so far, so we alternated between doing our own thing and hopping back on the tour at times. This was the view just outside the fort as we listened to the guide.
|The flag was much smaller than usual that day because of the wind, but that was the position of the flag when Francis Scott Key saw it and wrote the anthem.|
I could not get over the size of this freighter. I don't think this picture does it justice, but it was so tall!
Before heading into the fort, we checked out the cannons. This one was huge, over 8,500 pounds according to the impression around the opening on the end. Although this fort was most famous for the War of 1812, this was a Civil War era cannon (again, per the impression) and the fort was used through WWII.
Ready to be sheltered from the wind, we walked to the front of the fort itself...
Just inside, there was a tiny stairway with a very low ceiling. It led into a "bombproof" shelter. It was basically a large bricked-in room with only small air holes going the long way through the brick to the outside. Funny little spot, and the boys got a kick out of Carter being the perfect size for the stairs!
Inside the fort, it was much more modest than what we saw at Fort Niagara. Just a few buildings, most of which looked like this--two story wooden buildings with porches.
We stopped into any open door as we walked, which mostly led to different historical accounts--artifacts, articles about the history of the fort, or even one set up like barracks, full of bunk beds and a fireplace.
|Looking back toward the entrance at the famous flag|
One building had this statue and an interactive screen map, and I guess Jacob was helping him plan! The detail on the statue was cool, right down to his epaulets, which were coiled wire to look like fringe.
We saw the flag-keepers quarters and another ammunition storage space, and then we decided it was time to walk back to the main building, let the boys look around the shop (of course) and head out. Jacob got one inexpensive cannon to add to his army guys at home, and that was it for the fort! It may not have been as impressive as Fort Niagara, though it may be more lively in better weather, but we were happy we went.
This post seems to be long enough for now, but the day was only half over! Stay tuned for part 2 of our fabulous day in Baltimore!