Autism at the Ballpark – Baltimore Orioles

So, it’s April.  And if it’s April and Autism Awareness Month, it must be time for major sports franchises to be doing “Autism Awareness Day/Night” at the ballpark.

For some strange reason, the Baltimore Orioles decided to do a night game.  I don’t know about you, but the Monster and R don’t cope well after about, oh, 8:30 at night, so 7:35 start times don’t do me much good.  On the other hand, Autism Society of Baltimore/Chesapeake arranged for group tickets for the 1:35 PM game today, so we took the kids to the ballpark for today’s rubber match against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Disclaimer before the review: We bought our tickets – nothing was given to us to get us to attend the game.  On the other hand, the Orioles are my favorite ballclub, so…

Oriole Park at Camden Yards (OPACY) is the ballpark opened in downtown Baltimore in 1992 to house the Orioles, replacing Memorial Stadium.  While I didn’t grow up here – I was born here, but moved away a few weeks after birth – I do rather love having a baseball team so close by.  It is the ballpark that inspired so many of the stadia that have opened since that date.  In most cases, we take the light rail to the stadium (it’s cheaper than paying for parking), which drops you off right in front of the stadium.  Tickets are reasonable compared to a lot of other sporting events.

Unlike a lot of other sports stadia that we’ve been to, OPACY allows outside food.  As long as no glass, no alcohol and no unsealed beverages are involved, and it fits into a backpack, you can bring it into the park.  (Strollers are a bit more problematic, since you have to be able to store it under your feet, but… for going to the park, we’ve managed without one.  There are also copious handicapped seating areas for folks who need to use a wheelchair or have similar mobility issues.)  OPACY also has a fabulous diversity of food choices, from hot dogs and hamburgers to seafood and BBQ sandwiches… so I know that if we didn’t bring food for the Monster and R, we could definitely find things for them to eat there.  Some of the concessions can accommodate gluten-free and kosher dietary restrictions as well.  (The latter… would you expect anything less in Baltimore?)

One thing to be aware of us how busy Eutaw Street gets, if your child has issues with crowds.  Before a game, the street between the stadium and the warehouse building can be extremely crowded, and it might be just as advisable to duck into the stadium itself and avoid the press of people if it might cause trouble.

Bathrooms, for us, are always an issue.  The Monster refuses to use bathrooms when there are powered hand dryers, so when we did have to use the restroom, the men’s room was Just Fine, since they have towel dispensers still.  The toilets were a bit loud for him, but that should be the least of our concerns there.  The men’s rooms also have changing tables for those who need them.

Of course, this is also outdoors at a baseball game, so noise and weather issues can easily affect children who are sensitive to such things.  There are sections that are under cover and in the shade throughout the game – the upper deck on the first base line is mostly in shadow during afternoon games – so be careful about where you buy seats if you attend a game.  For Autism Awareness Night, a suite was also provided for a quiet respite area if someone needed it, but I’ve also found the club level, while pricier, does offer quiet areas for the easily overwhelmed.  The concourse behind the seats is also quieter during a game, but allows a parent to still keep track of the game as they do pipe out the radio play-by-play audio feed.

Unlike a lot of other activities, I think it’s easy for a family with Autism to blend in and have a semi-normal afternoon at OPACY.

One note to others in the area – if you’re going to go to some of the minor league teams in our area, grab a Birdland Passport.  There’s a pretty cool contest involved…

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