Baltimore Grand Prix causes traffic jam

BALTIMORE -- This weekend, cars will be driving on the streets of Baltimore at around 200 mph.

On Thursday, traffic came to a standstill in the Charm City.

Preparations for the Baltimore Grand Prix created havoc for members of the Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays trying to get to the ballpark for an afternoon game originally scheduled for 7:05 p.m.

The starting time was moved up to accommodate last-minute work on the course for the Grand Prix, which begins Friday and runs through Sunday. But several of the roads on the course were already closed to traffic Thursday morning.

The result was chaos in the streets.

Baltimore pitcher Chris Jakubauskas figured allowing two hours for a 1½-mile trip was prudent. He had no idea what was in store for him once he got on the road.

"I thought leaving at 8:40 was safe enough. I underestimated that situation," he said. "I know they're trying to bring money into the city by having a big race here. But I think the planning on the traffic part was a little lackluster."

Ninety minutes before the 12:35 p.m. start, Orioles manager Buck Showalter was seriously concerned about whether all his players would arrive on time.

"I don't know who's going to make it yet," he said. "I'm in the mood to say something real stupid that I'll regret."

At least Showalter knew Tommy Hunter, Baltimore's starting pitcher, was in the house.

"We put Hunter up in a hotel (Wednesday) night because he lives 45 minutes from here and he had to go home," the manager said. "We sent him home to pack and get back into the city.

"It took me an hour and 15 minutes to get here today and I thought I was leaving way early," Showalter said. "I'm still not real sure how I got here."

The Blue Jays' bus showed up a half-hour late. Slugger Jose Bautista said it took around 40 minutes to cover a mile.

"I attempted to come in my car but I was advised not to," he said. "I'm glad I didn't because I don't know where I'd be. I expected to be here 30 minutes before I actually got here, so I had to cut my preparation short and roll with it."

There was a police officer at every corner on Lombard Street, which cuts across the city, but the patrol officers were unable to get cars moving at even a pedestrian rate.

"The police officer I spoke with told me none of them, block to block, were on the same channel," Jakubauskas said. "So there wasn't any cohesiveness. But it is what it is. I got here before 11, which is dress time, so I'm good to go."

Once the game started, there were only around 5,000 fans in the stadium. Maybe it was the traffic, the switch in the starting time or the fact that Toronto and Baltimore occupy the final two spots in the AL East.

"Who knows what kind of attendance we're going to have today?" Jakubauskas said.

The Orioles were ready to take to the road for Tampa Bay after the game. Jakubauskas wouldn't have minded an off day, even if it meant contending with traffic.

"I'm kind bummed I won't be here to watch the race," he said, "because I've been to one before and they're kind of fun."