Paul D. Shinkman, wtop.com
WASHINGTON - The start of this baseball season celebrates an important anniversary for one local field, which many credit with ushering in the popularity of throw-back facilities in the sport.
Camden Yards marks its 20th anniversary this season, with celebrants looking back to a burgeoning Orioles home team that would set the groundwork for some of the greatest moments in the history of the sport.
"It's a truly wonderful experience," says Bobby Bonilla. He played for the Orioles in the 1995-1996 season, when the team made it to the American League championship and shortstop Cal Ripken broke the record of most consecutive games played, previously held by Lou Gehrig with 2,030.
"The night that Cal broke the record, that was a wonderful day, and it's etched in my memory," Bonilla tells WTOP. Ripken had played on the team for more than a decade when it opened its new home field in 1992. He went on to play a total of 2,632 games.
Bonilla also cites the convenience of the park, just blocks from the Inner Harbor and Federal Hill neighborhoods, and the only place where the retired all-star was able to walk to work from his home.
"It was an enjoyable walk, it was weird at the beginning," he says of the accessibility to the fans. "With the warehouse being there in left field and the view you got of downtown Baltimore, it's pretty cool."
B.J. Surhoff, who played for the Orioles for four seasons after joining in 1996 and again from 2003 to 2005, says the ballpark's unique old-school feel sets it apart from all others.
"There's no question, that was the first one," he says. "The ballpark has withstood the test of time and beyond."
The design "set a trend" with its architectural ties to the downtown warehouses, says Surhoff, though the ownership has kept it modern with new decks and railings above the outfield walls.
Surhoff says his highlight there was playing in the playoffs: "No doubt."
As for the current roster, the team Hall of Famer has encouraging words.
"I'm trying to figure out every day how they can win," he says. "I think the guys are starting to believe a little more."
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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)
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