The past two days, I have the pleasure of seeing the Orioles and Nationals play each other in both ballparks. Although I haven’t been to an extensive amount of major league stadiums in my life, I have frequented these two over the past couple of years. Let’s take a look at which one offers the best baseball experience and overall fan atmosphere.
First Thoughts: Nats Park - When heading down to DC for a Nats game, it is about a 40-50 minute metro ride to the Navy Yard stop where the ballpark is. After you exit the stop that leaves you outside the ballpark, you are greeted with a large tailgate party area, vendors selling food and water (that you can actually bring in!) and that is about it. There isn’t much to do around the Nats ballpark other than check out what the party area offers. The area is called “The Bullpen” (how clever) and although I have never actually been in there, it looks like a cool spot to take in a few beverages before first pitch and after the final out.
Camden Yards - After trekking on I-70 and a little bit of I-95, the entry into the city of Baltimore is really unique. You drive right around the Ravens Stadium and pretty much right into downtown Baltimore. While driving may be a bit more hectic than the metro, I believe that the scenery that B-More offers on the drive in is something that adds to the experience. After parking in a garage a few blocks away and heading towards the ballpark, there is a sea of orange and black at the bars across the street from OPACY that fans gather in before and after games. Pickles Pub & Slides offer a cool experience to drink with your fellow O’s fan while consuming some drinks and perhaps some beer battered pickles (my favorite!) Verdict - While the outdoor party area in DC seems more spaced out than the bars outside of Oriole Park and they let you bring in water, the whole ambiance of being right in downtown Baltimore is a cooler experience for me. I am going to give the opening salve to Camden Yards.
Unique Stadium Features: Camden Yards - Right out of the gates, I am going to come out and say the concourse at OPACY is much spacier than that of Nats Park. I don’t really think it has to do anything with the amount of fans, but there is just more walking area. Moving on…Eutaw Street is one of the coolest things I have ever seen. Maybe it is because I am a sports nerd, but it is just an awesome sight when the stadium is packed with fans. Obviously you have the historical warehouse in right field and plaques on the sidewalk that have names on it of players that have hit homers there. They also recently added a center field bar area to the stadium. Nats Park - The scoreboard walk area is what I found to be the most unique at Nats Park. Behing their enormous scoreboard, there are some great places to get food and a cool couch area to sit in if you would like to take a load off and eat your dinner. You can also check out a cool bar/restaurant area known as the Red Porch. There is a full service restaurant and bar on the bottom floor and a pretty awesome view of the game from center field as well.
Verdict - While it seems like this one is a bit of a stalemate, I am going to give this one to Camden Yards. Eutaw Street is just one of those really unique aspects of a ballpark that is tough to top. I’ll give it to Nats Park on this one though, it was a tough choice.
Food: Nats Park - As I mentioned in the previous section, Nats Park has the scoreboard walk area that offers a lot of really good food items. There’s the Shake Shack, El Verano Taquiera and Blue Smoke BBQ – all have great tasting food on the menu. On Tuesday night, I consumed a double shake shack burger with their shack sauce, which added some zest to the burger. While my body might hate me for it, the burger was really good. I had the steak tacos at El Verano last year at a game and they were small but extremely delicious. Next time, I am heading to Blue Smoke BBQ. Nats Park offers a cool Taste of the Majors stand as well. When other teams are in town, they offer a food item from that city. They have a stand, Ben’s Chili Bowl, that sells some awesome eats, including chili dogs, chili tots and chili fries. Camden Yards - I honestly haven’t really tried any super unique items at an Orioles game when it came to food, but maybe I haven’t looked hard enough. They have some good choices when it comes to their concourse items, including crab cakes. Located under the green tent behind the center field bleachers on Eutaw Street is Boog’s BBQ. During many Orioles home games, Boog Powell, the former All-Star first baseman, can be found signing autographs and serving up some of Maryland’s finest barbecue beef, pork, and turkey. Boog’s BBQ is also served in the All-Star Café on the Oriole Park Club Level. They have a couple of pubs in the stadium, which is cool but a little overpriced for my tastes. Verdict - I am going to give this one to Nats Park. Their scoreboard walk food options are better in my book and their stadium hot dogs are Hebrew National, which are my favorite.
The Seats: Camden Yards - The seating bowl area at Camden Yards is really nice. It is different than a lot of stadiums I have been in and just looks very state of the art. The left field seats are really close to the field, which is completely different from Nats Park. It almost feels like you are only five feet from the field. The club level in OPACY is also nice. They have plenty of trophies and gold glove awards from year’s past to check out as well. The suites are really nice, but so are most. The closer you get to the field, the better the seats get. I sat in section 46 this week, which is a level up from the field and the seats were padded! Nats Park - The seating bowl area at Nats Park really isn’t that exciting. It bares a striking resemblance to Citizens Bank Park with the layout and there really isn’t much about it that screams “new” even though the ballpark is one of the newest in MLB. They have a really sweet deal on Tuesday night’s for $5 tickets, which I took full advantage of, but both stadiums have their respective ticket deals. Verdict - This one definitely goes to Camden Yards. The ballpark is much older than Nats Park, but has a newer feel to it. Nats Park just comes off kind of uniform when it comes to a ballpark, and it doesn’t really offer much in the aspect of state of the art. It is very basic in my opinion.
Apter Thoughts - Although food is a big part of the ballpark experience, Camden Yards is just a better overall atmosphere for a game. I do like the Nats Park PA Announcer better than the O’s but unfortunately, that didn’t make a difference. If you are looking to go to a game at either one of the two, I suggest going to Camden Yards for the downtown city feel, a cool ballpark experience and perhaps a crabcake, if you like that kinda stuff.
Thanks for reading!