Diversions & Excursions

Vol. 8, No. 28
July 13-19, 2000
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Eight for 12 at Camden Yards
by Patricia Acton

You know your kid is growing up when his idea for a great birthday party sounds really, really good to you, too. Still, when my son asked to go to a Baltimore Orioles game for his birthday — taking along five of his friends, plus his brother and one of his pals — my husband and I said, “We’ll think about it.”

We had to think — and talk — about it. Can we get 10 tickets in a row? What if someone gets lost? Will it be too expensive? (In a word, yes.) A truly frightening scenario involved keeping eight kids occupied during a two-hour rain delay.

We considered other options. Home parties are cheap, but have serious built-in pitfalls: You have to clean the house, then watch, smiling benevolently, as the house is trashed.

We used to have a lot of these parties, usually with a theme like cowboys or pirates. The King Kong party, complete with a homemade King Kong cake, was pretty good, except we mistakenly rented the remake of the movie rather than the original. Besides being inferior, the remake shows Jessica Lange’s breasts and uses four-letter words liberally. Not what we’d envisioned for a 10-year-old’s party — especially when a minister’s son was one of the guests.

The Orioles’ game was starting to look good to us — especially as we’d already hit every other popular birthday party destination within a 25-mile radius. When the boys were younger, these destinations included Chucky Cheese and Discovery Zone. From there, we went on to bowling, movies, skating and the go-cart track in Crofton. Once we went to a game of the now-defunct Icebreakers hockey team (they had terrible food; no wonder they went bust). Another time we took a group to the Riva Swim Center. At $1.50 a kid, that party was a real bargain. The downside was the pool was freezing — plus, I had to appear publicly in a swimsuit in March, when my legs were still the color of fish bellies.

Awash in memories of parties past, I was thinking an Orioles’ game sounded real good, and heck, a kid only turns 12 once. I did have one last reservation: Every time we had gone to an O’s game in the past, it was guaranteed they’d lose. Still, if they couldn’t beat Detroit, who could they beat? We bought the tickets.

As our game approached, I must have called the weather 50 times, but the Bell Atlantic forecasters continued to insist that showers were “on tap,” like a crummy beer, for Saturday. When the day finally arrived, however, it was gorgeous: bright blue sky and already warm by 10am. We told the kids to bring ponchos just in case.

The day went perfectly, more or less. We loaded everybody into two cars and took the train in to Camden Yards from Glen Burnie. The kids were a tad rowdy on the train, but we couldn’t get too annoyed as we were busy being annoyed with the driver who seemed intent on doing everything, including his job, in slow motion.

It felt downright balmy once we got to Camden Yards, where the first inning had started. We hadn’t been able to get 10 tickets together, so we got five in one row and five right behind, which put us closer together than if we’d been all in a row. The snacks I’d packed (individual bags of chips and fruit roll-ups) were a hit and kept food expenses down. The sodas in plastic bottles I had frozen the night before reached just the right level of slushiness by game time.

The child we lost, very briefly, in the crowd on the way into the stadium, was quickly found. The storm, which blew up very suddenly, didn’t arrive until the ninth inning. The kids didn’t care anyway: They moved closer to the field, taking over the seats of fair-weather fans who left, and did the wave. Some of them put on the plastic garbage bags (clean ones) that my husband had packed as extra ponchos. No one threw up or was thrown up on.

What a game! As usual early this season when Mussina pitched, it was low scoring for both sides and close throughout. The O’s were behind 1-0, but tied it in the eighth and went into extra innings, winning 2-1 when DeShields (or maybe it was some other Oriole, I forget) drove in the final run in the 10th. Even though the score was low, there was plenty of action. And our jinx was broken: For once, the O’s won a game when we were there to see it.

It was a great day and that rare birthday party that was as much fun for the grownups as for the kids. It’s hard to beat a gorgeous day at the ballpark with a happy bunch of 12-year-olds who, for the moment, have no cares in the world: As long as you’ve remembered the snacks and the big plastic garbage bags.

Acton, of Deale, more usually writes about gardening — for Bay Weekly as well as for national magazines.

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly