This morning as I took my usual walk through the Camden Yard’s Warehouse to get to my office I noticed something different. It wasn’t something out of the ordinary, something in the air was different. There were more people walking around, more trucks coming in for delivery and more cars in the parking lot. It was controlled chaos. It could only mean one thing when there are more people working at a baseball stadium: Opening Day is right around the corner.
A lot of people just assume that setting up for Opening Day would be easy considering you have all of the off-season to prepare but this is not the case. One of the hardest projects is getting the stadium- which has laid dormant for 6 months- ready for the sell-out crowd on Opening Day. There are a lot of things that need to get done before the stadium is in pristine shape for the fans.
Everything in the stadium needs to be brought “back to life” said Manager of Baseball Operations for the Maryland Stadium Authority Matt Kastel. The whole stadium needs to be operational by the start of Opening Day. They have to turn the water back on, hang signage, clean, paint and get the concessions stands and merchandise all restocked and prepared for the first game. The pressure is on to make sure that the park looks at its best for the first day.
This process is very difficult to go through. With a firm deadline of March 31 there is a long list of things that need to be done in that short period of time. Kastel stated how difficult it is to get ready for the first game, “We haven’t had a game since last September, and the 1st game we have will be sold out with a lot of pomp and circumstance. It is like going from zero to 100 in the snap of a finger.” Not only do they need to be prepared for a game for the first time in months but Opening Day is one of the biggest spectacles in sports. It is not just another regular season game. There is a lot of tradition and is a special event for every baseball fan in America and they need to present the stadium that way.
Not only do they need to make sure the stadium is prepared but they need to make the transition from Spring Training in Sarasota, FL to Baltimore. They send two trucks down to Sarasota with gear where it will be used for Spring Training. They will then send the trucks back up to Baltimore the week before to get everything unloaded and prepared for the first game. Having a week to unload and prepare all the gear is a very difficult task. The players then fly up the night before Opening Day, depending on the schedule, and will bring the rest of the equipment and uniforms with you.
While Kastel and his staff are concerned with the stadium the grounds crew is concerned over the field. Head Grounds Keeper for Camden Yards Nicole McFadyen is in charge of making sure the field is safe, playable and aesthetically pleasing for the fans and players. This is very important for Opening Day. The grounds crew needs to get off to a good start in order to set the tone for the rest of the season. The field needs to be safe and playable for the teams and players.
A lot of parks across the country will try new field designs and try to be innovative for Opening Day but McFadyen and her staff like to keep Camden looking “classic”. The classic look is what makes Camden so unique whether it is the traditional diamond pattern in the grass or the subtle brown color matching the warning track to the color of the Warehouse. The aura of a stadium can make a baseball game even more enjoyable. It doesn’t have to be flashy to be a great park which McFayden and the Orioles are proving with Camden Yards.
The toughest thing for McFayden and her crew though is, like most Marylanders know, the unpredictable weather. With the changes in temperature and precipitation McFayden has had to alter her plans quite a bit to make sure the field is ready for first pitch. The grounds crew has fought through a tough winter but McFayden says, “If Opening Day was tonight the field would be ready to play on”, and that is all she really cares about. With the field in top shape she says she just wants the fans to be reminded that baseball is here and spring is right around the corner.
Although there is a lot of craziness and stress that happens during this time of year it is all worth it. Kastel states, “When the first pitch comes on Opening Day, and you see all the fans enjoying themselves, you look around and see all that has been accomplished.” One of the greatest things about baseball is the family aspect of it. Take your kids, spouse or significant other and enjoy a game. There is nothing in the world quite like it and it is bound to put a smile on your face.