So, things have gotten a little bit nuts in Baltimore. Aside from the excitement over the Ravens' week one offensive performance, the Orioles are playing their first meaningful games in September since their stellar 1997 season that ended with Armando Benitez serving up a home run to Tony Fernandez of the Cleveland Indians in the 11th inning of Game 6 of the ALCS. In honor of the 20th anniversary of Camden Yards, the Orioles were offering "throwback prices" on certain sections of the stadium. You could literally purchase a seat for $4 or $8 (the prices when Camden Yards opened back in 1992). Given the playoff atmosphere at the stadium with the Tampa Bay Rays in town, and considering the cheap seats available, I decided that this would be the perfect time to take my daughter to her first game.
Off To A Rough StartDue to circumstances beyond our control, we arrived to the game a bit late. We missed out on the free t-shirts (they had the "BUCKLE UP" logo), so that was really a bummer. But I was thrilled with the view from our $8 seats near the left field corner. We were eleven rows back from the wall, and there were a few foul balls hit our way, all though none were close enough to make a play. The sun was out, and the weather was beautiful. We were here for a ball game, and boy did we ever get one.
Advanced PreparationWhen taking your child to a ball game, it is important to know the rules of the stadium. For example, at Camden Yards, you may bring in any unopened food or drinks (other than alcohol, of course). Being an afternoon game, I was able to feed my daughter an early lunch on the road, and we had plenty of snacks and a spare cup of juice so that we stayed hydrated. I knew our seats were going to be in the sun for most of the game, so we all wore hats and sunscreen. I did not bring sunglasses for my daughter because she would have definitely dropped them, and in a crowded stadium, that would have been a disaster. So we opted for the floppy hat for her instead.
Plan to take a friend or your spouse. It is tough to watch a kid and watch the game at the same time. If you take a buddy (in our case, it was my brother) they can do a little bit of "backup duty" to make sure that your child isn't running off when you have to use the restroom or sneak a peak at the action on the field. In our case, it was also helpful that we sat my daughter in between us so that we helped to shade her from the afternoon sun.
Cool Stuff For KidsMost ball parks have some cool stuff for kids. Check the team's website to see what is available during your visit. Sometimes they let kids run the bases or meet players before or after the game. You might be able to get your picture with the mascot at a certain time. Most parks have a "Little Fan Zone" or something similar where kids can play if they are not interested in the game. The Orioles have a special certificate for first time attendees that says "Most Valuable Fan" to commemorate your child's first game. And they also gave us some big stickers and a post card of the stadium. This was a great gift for my little one, and she was thrilled with the stickers of the Oriole Bird.
Jock JamsOne of my daughter's favorite CD's is a generic "Jock Jams" disc with all of the classic stadium anthems. She dances wildly around her bedroom to hits like "Y.M.C.A.," "Hot, Hot, Hot," "Come On Ride The Train," and "We Will Rock You." She recognized these songs when they played at the park, and she was thrilled to sing along, "It's like in my room!" she said. We have thoroughly prepared her for the stadium experience, and she rose to the occasion with her Y-M-C-A hand motions and "If You're Happy and You Know It" hand clapping.
Find the MascotWhile we took a break between innings to walk the concourse (my girl was getting antsy), we happened to pass the team mascot, the Oriole Bird, and my daughter was able to give him a high five as he walked by. When we returned to our seats, all she wanted to do was go see the bird. I pointed him out as he danced through various sections of the stadium, and she kept asking, "Can we go get him?" It was too cute. I had to eventually tell her, "No, honey, he has to see all of the little boys and girls in the stadium, so he is a very busy bird. Aren't you glad you got to give him high five?"
Leave Early, Avoid DisasterI planned to leave the game early. I knew that my toddler would never sit through an entire game, and nobody wants to be that parent dragging their jellyfish of a screaming toddler to the car. Granted, the cheap prices for the seats made leaving early much easier, but this would be smart for any parent of a toddler to consider. When you do decide to leave the park with a toddler who could melt down at any second, the walk to the car and the ride home are the longest you will ever experience. If you plan to leave early, you can usually catch the last inning or two on that fancy contraption called the radio in the car. We left in the seventh inning as we had a long walk to where we parked, and I don't regret it for a second. When we left the game in the seventh, it was only HALF over! We listened all the way home, watched an inning at my dad's house, and then went to visit my wife's mom, and the O's were just finishing when we got back in the care to head home. Fourteen innings! She definitely would not have lasted that long. Heck, I wouldn't have lasted that long! I didn't pack that many snacks.
All in all, we had a great time, and I want to give a BIG thank you to the folks at Fan Assistance for their hospitality and to the security guard who told us about the free certificate to commemorate our first game. That truly made our day, and now we will never forget our first daddy-daughter trip to Camden Yards.