Remembering Training Camp at McDaniel College

McDaniel 600
Photo Credit: Sabina Moran

Those early morning days of late July in Westminster, MD were special. The sunlight felt a little lazier just after dawn – the dew in the grass a bit heavier and the feeling of change surrounded us.

This was training camp at McDaniel College.

The morning included a round of golf followed by lunch at Baugher’s. From there it was off to Ravens training camp where thousands of fans convened with great anticipation for the coming season.

It was Americana at its finest.

Concession stands and games for children dominated the parking lot and courtyard immediately adjacent to the primary field and directly behind the grandstands. Every noteworthy play was cheered and a long toss for a touchdown inspired a thunderous applause.

That changed for me when our website added a Ravens talk show on ESPN 1300 as part of our Ravens coverage. GAMETIME wasn’t about ego or about someone becoming a star. Our show was about information – getting the right information to the fans. No one cared who delivered it. We only cared that it was delivered.

We knew what fans wanted because we were one of them.

The show also provided access to the team that we never enjoyed before. No longer did we cover the Ravens from the grandstands. Instead I was along the sidelines during practice and around the podium for interviews after practice.

We became part of the developing new media.

Initially it was strange to be inside the ropes and so close to the players. I always brought along a towel to kneel on so that I wouldn’t block the view of the fans behind me. I was the only “media member” who seemed to care about that but then again, I was and still am just a fan with access.

During those Brian Billick orchestrated training camps access was a bit easier. We could go pretty much anywhere we wanted on either of the primary fields provided we remained on the far side of the painted yellow line that bordered sidelines from 5 yards away.

The mood during camp began to change when John Harbaugh took over for Billick during the 2008 season. Media freedoms eroded and more controls seeped in. But we could still creep up to within 5 yards of the sideline and I still had my trusty little towel to kneel upon.

With the advent of new smartphones texting became easier. Then along came Twitter. In an effort to give fans not in attendance more access to what was happening on the field I would Tweet about the action on the field and in between Tweets, I’d record other observations to later compile our Camp Notes.

One morning while doing exactly that with notepad, pen and smartphone in hand, Mark Clayton ran an out route a few yards to my left. The Joe Flacco pass sailed and was heading right towards me.

Cupping my phone in my left hand while holding pen and pad in the other I somehow corralled the pass as the point of the tight spiraling ball hit my left pec.

It left a mark but in my mind, it was a completed pass. Lombardi, No. 247, on the receiving end of a laser from Flacco.

That lucky grab is a memory that will always stay with me.

Those fields of McDaniel provided many memories.

Unfortunately that slice of Americana here in the Land of Pleasant Living is a thing of our past. Today I wouldn’t have the opportunity to make that catch of self-defense. We can no longer get as close. We can no longer kneel and cell phone usage and Tweeting are no longer allowed near the fields.

More disheartening is the absence of thousands of fans who really provided the canvas upon which these summer practices were painted.

The move is understandable given the limitations on practices that are part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Teams must make the most efficient use of their time with the players during training camp and given the landscape of McDaniel, the headquarters in Owings Mills are just much more conducive for efficiency.

Things change, and sometimes change even if for the better triggers collateral damage.

And in the case of Ravens training camp, unfortunately it’s the fans who are left wounded.

What best describes your feelings about Ravens training camp at team headquarters?
I understand the need for improved efficiency given the new CBA (66%)
The Ravens apparently don't care about what is best for the fans. (34%)
This poll has completed. Thank you for voting.
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About Tony Lombardi

Tony Lombardi
Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan. A diehard Fab Four fan, Tony is a frustrated musician who thinks beating on the steering wheel is akin...more

10 Raves on “Remembering Training Camp at McDaniel College

  1. Matt on said:

    My sister went to school there when they practiced at that school. I’ll never forget watching Lewis and company practice there!

  2. Chip Riddle on said:

    Hey Tony,

    Hope all is well. Training camps at McDaniel were truly great for both the fans and the media. Where else could the fans be that close to the field and the players they root for? These open practices at the stadium and Annapolis are just not the same. We almost always made the trip up to Westminster on that “first Friday” of camp after the veterans had reported. One of my favorite memories was a brief but memorable conversation I had with Colt legend and HOF Lenny Moore. We discussed the Baltimore youth he would routinely bring to camp as well as the action on the field. Super nice guy! Another memory was standing “5 yards away” behind the roped off field and watching #52 destroy FB Alan Ricard. Question: I also see the Eagles are no longer training at Lehigh as of last year. With the new CBA spurring teams to train more and more at their facilities for efficiency purposes do you ever see the Steelers abandoning their camp at Saint Vincent in Latrobe? They have been there forever.

    • Tony LombardiTony Lombardi on said:

      Chip, thanks for sharing those memories…

      As for the Steelers and Latrobe, I can see them being one of if not the last holdout resisting the move to team headquarters.

      I think one thing overlooked in this equation is the differences between the college facilities and the team headquarters. The bigger the gap between them in terms of efficiencies and conveniences, the more likely the move. It may be that the advantages of Steelers’ HQ relatively speaking over Latrobe Memorial Stadium aren’t as gaping as those between McDaniel and One Winning Drive.

  3. Chip R on said:

    Tony,

    Good point about the gap in efficiencies and conveniences between TC location and team facilities. This was very likely the case when the Eagles moved back to the NovaCare facility across from the Linc in Philly. I agree with you about the Steelers being one of the last holdouts for a twofold reason: 1) less of a gap in accommodations; 2) the Steelers organization, steeped in tradition and led by the Rooney’s, will remain connected to their roots and relationship with the community there.

  4. Zach on said:

    Ill never forget the first memory I have of football at “Western Maryland College.” I was about 7 years old at my first Ravens Training Camp practice. I me Priest Holmes. I said “Who are you?” and he said “I’m Priest…I’m the running back.” I looked at him and he pulled his sweaty wristbands off and let me have them. I was in love with Ravens and football from there on. Miss those training camp days in Westminster!

  5. Vicky on said:

    Drove past McDaniel College today, and was remembering the times that I went to training camp. I agree, going to M&T or Annapolis is just not the same. During one of my visits to Westminster I met a family from England. They planned their vacation around coming to the Ravens training camp!

  6. Eric on said:

    I will hold a grudge against Biscotti for the rest of my life (unless he puts training camp back to Westminster). For him to show us that picture of him as a child with Johny U but then tell us how we will not be able to have the same moment with our children makes me so mad. I feel bad for the town as well, as anyone who attended training camp knows, the town made expansions due to the extra traffic and now are just sh*t outta luck. I don’t care what the reasons are, I want my training camp back.

  7. CoRavensFan on said:

    As a single Mom, taking my son to training camp was really special. It was one place he loved to go and wasn’t embarrassed to be seen with his mother. It was also a place where I would meet up with my friend Keith, who died several years ago. It’s a real shame that there are so many young fans that will never get to experience training camp at Western Maryland College (now McDaniel).

  8. orphan45 on said:

    When I was a kid, my dad would take me to Colts training camp practices and it was amazing to me, those guys were so big and so impressive. To me they were like living comic book super heroes. As I grew older I would take myself to see those Colts practices and watch the team practice and wish I could “muscle up” like those guys. One year I got to talk to a Colts WR named Ray Butler who was really cut. I asked him how he got so cut and he introduced me to the then strength and conditioning coach Mike Westhoff. He took pity on my skinny frame and gave me my very own Baltimore Colts Weight Training Plan. That was awesome and I used it for several years to turn my 119 lb frame into 150 lbs of pure muscle and eventually benched 320 lbs.
    Camp in those days was at Goucher College. When the Ravens came and camp was out at Western Maryland College, I was old enough to flip the script and was able to take my dad to camp and watch the practices. It became a tradition for us, and now I could take MY son who was born in 2000. Every year we would pick A date and I would take off from work, drive to Columbia with my son, pick up my dad and we would shoot up Rt 32 to Westminister and enjoy the day. Autographs, practices, and just the joy of spending a day, 3 generations, watching “our boys” come together to become a team. We were there the day, Jamaal got hurt, the day it became apparent that Joe Flacco had an arm, we saw Steve McNair’s first full day practicing as a Raven, Frank Walker getting his butt whupped by Yamon Figures, the list goes on and on, including my heated “debate” with Mike Preston about the lies he would write in his column.
    That tradition is sorely missed and though I understand the move to the Castle, it is shame that after waiting 13 years to get a new team, and going up to see the boys for so many years, we’ve lost that connection.

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