No place like home: Returning to Camden Yards to watch Rodriguez’s home debut

This year, I missed my first home opener since 2018. There was a perfect concoction of sadness and FOMO that day and the days that followed. That all went away on Tuesday when I walked through the Home Plate Plaza with a Gas ‘Em Up T-shirt in hand.

I knew I had to be there for Grayson Rodriguez’s first home start. I say this with all the due credit and respect to everyone who has started a game in the last couple of years, but there was a buzz around who was taking the mound that I only felt after John Means threw his no hitter, and it takes some thinking to go back further than that.

With my ticket scanned, for the first time in 188 days, I was home. Like the familiarity of riding a bike, the sights, smells and sounds of ‘The ballpark that forever changed baseball’ came back quickly. There were many things that have not changed, and in my experience, the things that did were not a hinderance to my nostalgia.

The first thing that I noticed almost right away due to the gate I came in was a new Mitchell and Ness storefront that lived up to both the modern-day appeal and prices. The names of most of the concession stands remain the same, with a few exceptions and a few additions.

If you have not been to The Yard yet, you will notice a price jump on most things. The O’s have contracted a new vendor. The team is the best and most exciting it’s been in a while, so it makes sense.

As a side note, the 30% discount my membership brings didn’t hurt or change my mind. I still would have gotten the souvenir soda with two different photos of Adley on it at full price.

Once I was in my seat and greeted by the familiar faces of the ushers I have befriended over the years, I took a moment to scan the field. Nicole Sherry and her team replaced the actual playing surface this year, and all I could say was, “Wow.” If you get to a game or have been before, you will notice how much more vibrant the actual playing surface is this year.

Now, we still had a game to play. The Oakland Athletics started to step out in their green uniforms, which I happen to think are their best. Rodriguez came out to warm up to the applause of what is an expected mid-week April crowd. Game on.

I’m not going to sit here and talk stats and numbers with you. Some weeks, I may, but we have plenty of good people at The Baltimore Battery who can do that well. I want to try to bring you into my experience as best as I possibly can.

As the game went on and the A’s started to collect their two-strike hits, the feeling of ‘Grayson’s got this’ never left. I was also extremely encouraged by his pitch count. They let him work into the 90’s, and we haven’t seen that since 2019. (OK, maybe I did just talk a little numbers after all…)

Then, there was the offense. I don’t think you, I or anyone was worried about the Orioles’ ability to score runs this year. Once again, the feeling of ‘they got this’, even when letting Oakland come back, is something I’m not sure has been that confidently felt for some time.

Adley Rutschman roped his first double of the year, Jorge Mateo continued to run and the list goes on and on. But, oh, my sweet Ryan Mountcastle.

I’m not ready to say I told you so yet, but I was predicting a huge year from this guy. I’m hoping that he keeps this up enough that we are all singing along to ‘Dear Maria Count Me In’ by October just like the Rockies faithful scream ‘TONIGHT’ when Charlie Blackmon steps to the plate.

Following up on my previous article, being at my first regular season game with the new rules, I’m happy to say I stand by everything I said. Primarily, I’m still all in on the clock. All. The. Way. In.

The shift is making enough of a difference to let the hits sneak through or the defense shine. Just like I thought, runners just weren’t running in spring training. We’re starting to see the base size difference now.

This random Tuesday in April was not so random for me. I jumped back on the bike, pedaled a couple feet and let the giant hill that is Orioles baseball do the rest of the work. There was a buzz of excitement, there was a roaring ‘O’ during the anthem and there was a team that I love, ready to take me through the highs and lows.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to find your way to Camden Yards in the near future. I hope you have as much fun as I did. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Dong Bong… I mean, Homer Hose.

What was your experience at Camden Yards like this season? Let us know in the comments below! Make sure to follow The Baltimore Battery on Facebook, Twitter and TikTok, and use the hashtag #baltimorebattery when sharing our content!

Like Jason’s content? Follow him on Twitter – @jbenowitz1831

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