NBC's "American Ninja Warrior," a show that pits competitors against challenging obstacle courses across the country, is coming to Baltimore for the second time in the show's history.
Baltimore's Rash Field is one of six competition sites leading up to the finals in Las Vegas in the 11th season of ANW. The last time ANW hosted competitions at Rash Field was during the show's fifth season in 2013, when bad weather conspired to rob the event of its full potential.
"I'll tell you what, it definitely wasn't as easy as it could have been ... because the temperature was probably in the mid-30s and a breeze right off the water there on the Inner Harbor made for a heck of a night, I'm going to tell you that right now," said Joe Moravsky, a veteran of the show who placed second in Baltimore in 2013. "It was cold, and my family was not happy."
Baltimore will get a second chance when ANW films at Rash Field April 28-29, and the final product will air on NBC later in the year. Hopeful competitors send in applications -- which include a video submission -- to the show in order to try to secure a spot in one of the competitions leading up to Vegas. Those picked to compete in Baltimore were notified of their selection about a month ahead of the competition. Moravsky, a meteorologist from Connecticut, was among those picked to compete in Baltimore.
ANW staff will arrive at Rash Field about a week ahead of filming to set up an obstacle course designed to test competitors' athleticism, strength, endurance and willpower; a nearly 15-foot warped wall and water tanks are among the more recognizable parts of the course. The show will also set up lighting for filming.
Filming will begin the evening of April 28 once the lights take full effect. The first night is for the city qualifying event, and the second night is for the city finals. Typically, about 15 competitors move on from each city to the national finals in Vegas. Moravsky's Baltimore finals run from 2013 has been viewed more than 260,000 times on YouTube, but other competitors have briefer on-air appearances.
"I was shown, but it was brief because it was only two obstacles and I face-planted into the water on the second one," joked Tony Torres, the owner of Alternate Routes Gym in White Marsh, Md., who competed in the Baltimore finals in 2013. "I was actually 'Papa John's Wipeout Warrior of the Night' back when Papa John's used to sponsor the show."
Alternate Routes Gym is just one of the Ninja Warrior and Parkour gyms in the Baltimore area that have seen their popularity grow along with the show; Torres said his gym is most active during the spring and summer -- the same time the show is on.
"As the show premiers, I'll get tons of families coming out," Torres said. "... People are like, 'I wonder if there's anything like that near me.' They'll Google it, and then they come out and the kids will have a blast with the parents, so it's something that everybody can kind of do together."
The sense of family and togetherness is a consistent theme among the ninja community at local gyms.
"It's just fun, that's all it is," said Alex Moseley, who works out at Alternate Routes Gym and applied to be on ANW this season. "... I come here, I want to jump around, I want to play around. I just happen to be exercising as I do that. As I'm having fun, just jumping around with a bunch of friends, it's great community here."
Scott Morrison owns Kinetic Ninja Warrior gym in Bel Air, Md., and took part in the Miami qualifier during ANW's fourth season. The northeast U.S. is already one of the strongest ninja regions in the U.S., according to Morrison, but avoiding a repeat of 2013, when rain forced the city qualifier and final to be run back to back rather than on different nights, would be ideal for Baltimore.
"The previous experience in Baltimore was a little bit rough, and I'm certain that a lot of ninjas are hoping that we can kind of redeem ourselves," Morrison said. "... Hopefully Baltimore this year will be a much better environment. If it flows smoothly there, then there's better chances of it coming back."
Moravsky figures to be one of the top contenders at Rash Field. He's finished first or second in each of the six city finals he's participated in, the first of which was Baltimore in 2013. He's advanced to Vegas all six times, but he's got bigger plans for this season.
"To be going back to Baltimore is cool. It's exciting. It feels like the year for me, the year that I can win it all," Moravsky said. "... It would be poetic to have Baltimore be the beginning and the end."
Photo Credit: Mitchell Layton/G4
Issue 253: April 2019
Originally published April 15, 2019