I went to see an Orioles game. Thankfully I did not round the bases.
| It was the summer of 1998, one of my last summers spent in New Jersey. By now, I had some friends in the area after years of having no playmates. We weren't all that close, but we enjoyed each other's company and had a good time.
Our main link was Eddie. We were all friends with him, even if we didn't like others in the group. Eddie was social but mellow, fun loving but not reckless. Then, there was Phil. He was younger than Eddie by about a year and the second youngest in the group. In the group, he wasn't the most well liked, as he was younger, was more artistically inclined (as a lot of Phils have a tendency to be), and in ways still was a child. Still, Eddie was very loyal to him, thus allowing Phil to be in the group. The only other female in the group (besides me) was Jessica, who was the youngest at 10 (the rest of us were between the ages of 12 and 14). I'm not exactly sure how she was a part of the group, but she was. However, she was the least connected to us due to her age, a lingering sense of innocence (which was lost on most of us), and her girlishness. That's what separated her from me; while I may have been female like her, I've always been a tomboy and have been able to form friendships with guys fairly quickly.
One of those friendships was with Adam, the oldest of the group. He and I were both 14 at the time, both on the shy side, mellow, and noted for rather off the wall senses of humor. I remember meeting him the previous year but not really having an opinion on him. However, a year later, I found myself curiously smitten after finding out he was a Matchbox 20 fan. In any case, during the summer of 1998, he was in Somers Point more often, thus leading us to spending more time together. However, our friendship was truly born when we all took a trip to Baltimore.
It was towards the end of my stay in New Jersey, early August, when it was time for our trip to Baltimore. Eddie's mom worked for the local hospital, which was sponsoring the bus trip, and she had gotten spots for Eddie, Jessica, Phil, Adam, and me. Plus, she had arranged for us to sleep over at her house the night before. Actually, it was quite amusing for all six of us to pile into her car to go shopping for food for our lunches. I remember it clearly. While Cindy (Eddie's mom), Jessica, and Phil were in the front, Eddie (who's a big guy) pretty much took over the backseat. This resulted in Adam being squished up against me while I was squished against the door. That is definitely an interesting way to start a friendship.
After a rather interesting night in which I got next to no sleep, we were all getting up at 5:30 in the morning so we could be on the bus by 6:30.This period of organized chaos proved to be the beginning of many interesting phenomena, including the ongoing friendly flirtation between Adam and me.
It wasn't until we were about to leave when tthe flirtation began. Adam decided to hide Phil's hat, but he only told me where it was. So, the location of Phil's hat became our little secret, and when Phil searched frantically for his hat, Adam and I kept exchanging conspiratorial glances. After a while, though, Adam had to give in so we could leave, as Phil became very adamant about having his hat for the trip. We then all piled into Cindy's car for what seemed like the fifteenth time and headed over to the hospital to board the buses. Once again, Adam and I were practically sharing a seat as Eddie decided to sprawl out, but by this point, we had become accustomed to it.
For a while after that, things were pretty calm. We all got seats in the back of the bus, and I spent most of the bus ride listening to Matchbox 20.It wasn't until after we made a bathroom stop that Adam decided to stir me from my quasi reverie brought about by music and the motion of a bus ride. How did he do that? As I listened to music, he started shaking the headrest of my chair, intruding my peaceful state. He did this for about ten minutes, and then we arrived in Baltimore.
Upon arrival, we learned we had roughly two and a half hours before the game was scheduled to begin. Thus, the six of us had to decide how to spend our free time. We were standing outside the Hard Rock Cafe, which included a brand new ESPN Zone. Naturally, the boys zoomed in on that. Cindy wanted to go to a museum, but with Jessica and I being pretty flexible (and not really caring) about our final destination, she wasn't going to get her way. In the end, we were joined by one of Cindy's co-workers and his son, and we ended up at ESPN Zone.
To be honest, I had fun at ESPN Zone. For the most part, Adam and I were separated, but when it came time for us to leave, I was sent to go find him. After retrieving him, I was accompanied by Adam for the rest of our free time before the game. Our massive party of eight migrated to a nearby mini mall for lunch. Yes, we had brought our lunches, but we were seeking shade, as it was a traditional, broiling summer at the city by the bay.
Due to the amount of people now in our group, Adam (and I) kept to ourselves a bit. I mean, we weren't anti-social, but our behavior was more subdued. It could have been the weather, as heat can get to me after a while despite the fact I'm a native Floridian. However, that doesn't mean we abstained from contact. As a matter of fact, we often walked together as our pack roamed Baltimore, and I was kind enough to carry his Doritos. That said, we did stay within each others' orbits during lunch and as we made our way to the stadium for the game.
We arrived at Camden Yard around two in the afternoon, roasting from the walk to the complex. It took a while before we were underneath shade at Oriole Park. That shade was in the concession/souvenir underbellies of the stadium. The heat must have attacked my already dysfunctional brain cells, because I really wanted one of those foam fingers. However, I didn't have enough money for it. In the end, Phil loaned me some change, and I had my finger. Once I had my happy souvenir, we stalked off to find our seats.
When we had arrived, the Orioles were almost done with batting practice. However, one of the players sent a ball sailing into foul territory, and it flew right to where Eddie was standing! He caught the ball, and the rest of us were jealous of him for that, at least for a little while. We then found our seats, which were in a shady area around foul territory.
During the game, the boys moved around quite a bit, and the females (for the most part) stayed in the shade. I initially stayed in my spot, but when I noticed Adam had moved to a sunnier section closer to the field, I decided to move closer to him. That move proved to be moot, as he'd become rather quiet, almost listless. As the game went on without a whole lot of action (and failed attempts to get on the huge television gizmo), the heat began to intensify, and I felt dehydrated. I regretted spending my money on the foam finger as I saw a frozen lemonade vendor walk by me. I was parched, and it was taking away from my fun at the ballpark.
We weren't able to stay for the entire game, as we had to be back in Somers Point at a decent time. So, we left towards the end of the sixth inning and returned to the mini mall to get something for dinner. In spite of the fact I had a turkey sandwich for lunch, I opted to have a cool, refreshing turkey sub from Subway for dinner. That sub and a large Pepsi revived me after getting pan seared while sitting in Oriole Park.
When we left the mini mall, the sun had begun to set, leaving the harbor area blanketed in a balmy shade. Since our buses hadn't returned to the harbor area (where they had dropped us off), we sat around outside one of the civic buildings, amusing ourselves any way we could. Everyone wanted to hold my foam finger, but only Adam got to hold it. We had reverted to our conspiratorial phases and were determined to keep the finger away from Phil. In fact, I shared with Adam my plan to use the foam finger as a subtle way to flip Phil one. So, Adam and I played Keep the Foam Finger from Phil for a good while. We also saw a homeless guy asking people for change, but then Eddie said he had seen the same guy exiting the Hard Rock Cafe, hardly a venue for finding poor people eating, socializing, or something along those lines. That was the first time I ever heard of professional hobos, as Cindy suggested that man was paid to go around as a poor person seeking change.
A half hour later, the buses arrived, and we reluctantly hopped aboard. We found our seats again, and I immediately turned on my tape player to escape to Dreamland as a means of preserving my memories of this trip. Adam would have none of it, though. He decided to shake my chair again and played innocent when I turned to determine who was behind the movement of my chair.
The trip home was nothing exciting, but nonetheless, I was happy. I had indulged in a live viewing of our national pastime and carried on a day long flirtation at the same time. At that point, I was too tired to be kicking myself for not making a more direct move, because the flirting had been fun enough for me. It would turn out to be enough for me to remember the times when I actually looked forward to a major league baseball game.