Out to the Ballgame — Installment III

A Roy Halladay pitching gem, our first night in an RV park, and lots (& lots) of beer

Saturday, August 21, 2010, 11:00 PM

It’s a little after the end of a somewhat dull ballgame that ended happily, a Halladay-Madson-Lidge 1-0 pitching gem. Along with everyone else, we watched Doc struggle with his command. Every time he got into trouble, he characteristically found a way to get himself back into the dugout. But by the end of the 7th, he had thrown nearly 110 pitches and was headed out of the game. Then it was nail biting time. Until Brad ended the game with a nasty sinker strikeout, the Nationals were banging the ball all over the place. [SIGNUP]

I finally calmed down as well. I think the decades of anticipation of my first RV road trip had me biting my nails and my boys’ heads. With our first (ever) tailgate in the history books, I fell into a rhythm. I was ready for a new cultural experience—the motor home park. We headed out of the stadium lot, maneuvered our way onto I-95 and headed towards Elkton. A pass key awaited us at the Woodlands Camp Resort. Checking in isn’t quite the sale as checking into the Quality Inn. You have to back your RV into a designated spot, plug into the camp’s electric system, connect to the water, shut down the vehicle and turn on the generator. If you’ve spent your whole life living in Philadelphia, the chances are good, you have no idea what I just said. Thankfully, I have sons who like challenges and are patient. We got connected.

To everyone’s near shock, we slept like zombies. No one was sure whether it was the beer consumed or the comfort of the RV. But sleep well we did. Of course, it was too dark to see much when we arrived the night before but to our utter amazement, this park was another world. The entire place was like a development in the woods, each “lot” hosted a different style RV—not here they were called “motor homes.” Some sat on cinder blocks and were permanent and other had been driven in. The lots were landscaped with picnic tables and outdoor grill pits. The center of the park was a community center where everyone came on Saturday night for Bingo. We were going to miss that one. Near the Elk River and Chesapeake crabbing, this place was full of seniors. County laws limited occupancy from April to October. I have to admit, it had real charm and hospitality. And did I mention it cost $42 per night?

For lunch we drove our motor home to Chesapeake City on the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal, a real lovely town. Fresh steamed crabs awaited us. We got a little carried away with the time and didn’t leave until 3 p.m.. The Orioles game started at 4:10 so we were going to be a little late. Finding a parking spot near the Orioles Park was no day at the beach. But we were waved into one by an “attendant.” The lot was full since it served both the stadium and the Inner Harbor. Only four contiguous spaces were available. We took them all. A negotiation would be on our agenda but we’d deal with that later.

The ballpark remains a gem. I worked on its financing in the late ’80s. Projects like this always are accompanied by huge controversy. Camden Yards was no exception. The Colts had left the city in the dead of the night despite having made promises to stay. William Donald Schaefer was not going to lose his baseball team. Governor Schaefer (formerly Baltimore mayor) wanted to build a new stadium in downtown Baltimore next to a huge and antiquated warehouse. He created a sports lottery game to fund it and a special authority to build and operate it. When it came to pricing the land acquisition, something called a “drive-by appraisal” had been performed. Needless to say, the appraiser underestimated the costs—by a large margin. The governor summoned the Stadium Authority chairman to explain how this cost overrun could have occurred. He brought me along. In my entire life, I never heard anyone string so many curse words together in the same sentence and to use them in ways both new and entirely original. I was so baffled by Schaefer that I had to stifle a laugh, but the guy was a great public servant and without him, the entire “retro” stadium movement, one that includes Citizens Bank Park, might never have happened.

I always loved the “mall” that lined the stadium to the warehouse, a feature that is totally unique among the new ball parks. They’ve planted small plaques on the sidewalk commemorating each home run that found its way out of the building and into the pedestrian walkway.

The O’s-Texas Rangers game had all of the offense that our two Phillies game lacked. It was great to see Cliff Lee. The guy is amazing. But the O’s pounded him for 7 runs in the 3rd and 4th innings and home runs were flying out of the place. The Rangers let him pitch though and Cliff stayed in the game until the 7th inning. The Texans fought back with an offensive display of their own but the gamed ended with an O’s win, 8-6, a five home run affair. It was great fun! One curiosity was the presence of TV and Newsweek commentator, George Will. Sitting by himself and directly behind home plate, he jotted notes constantly and seemed to have a total fascination with Cliff Lee. My bet is a sequel to Men at Work is in the works perhaps focused on pitchers.

We drove to College Park, Maryland after the game and checked into Cherry Hill Park, an urban motor home park entirely different from Woodlands. Here every home was lined up perfectly parallel to every other home, sort of like metro developments. This park had the added features of satellite TV and a wireless WAN. Ah, the joys of modernia. Plus we found a laundromat on campus. This night would be another barbecue dinner—chicken and barbecue sauce, tortellini and cheese and cole slaw. The guys were very happy. We watched the Governador in True Lies and drank a lot of beer. Ben Katz put his dad into bed and somehow managed to get him covered up. It would be second night of incredibly restful and long sleep.

Sunday, August 22, 2010, 10:00 PM

Today was an off day. We got to exercise and jog around the park after walking up at 11 a.. The motor home is starting to look, feel and smell like Phi Sigma Delta. In fact, I may have lived at Phi Sig the last time I slept until 11 a.m. We decided to play some golf today. It was very hot and incredibly humid, eventually giving way to some intense but brief thunderstorms. While we waited for the ran to pass, we sat in the clubhouse bar of a course near Annapolis and watched the Panama team crush the Saudi Arabia team at the Little League World Series. The guys said they wanted to go up to Williamsport next year.
Somehow, I don’t think that’ll be the same.

Anyway, our group played well enough for the nine holes that this oppressive weather made possible. Prent doesn’t play much golf and tried to sell us on the notion that he should be a 30 handicap. Ben and Phil weren’t buying this and, sure enough, the guy ran off two straight par holes. Then he stepped up to a par 3 and hit s beautiful shot that landed six inches short of the hole and seemed to lip the cup before rolling another six inches or so beyond it. He had just been robbed of a hole in one but settled for a birdie. Par. Par. Birdie. Yeah, a 30 handicap!

Everyone was into the flow now. We had a great meal in Annapolis at a seafood place on the Severn River, Cantlers. It was great. Now back in the comfort of our motor home and park, we’re watching Back to the Future and making plans for some adjustments in our schedule later in the week. I’m psyched to see the new stadium in D.C. and to spend the day touring the city. We’re headed in on the Metro, which has a stop not far from here–hardly the image I had in mind of the RV camp site. More soon.

Read previous Out to the Ballgame posts here.