It was a cloudy day at Camden Yards, but the ballpark was still looking beautiful today as workers were putting the final touches on the new configuration in left field.
It’s going to take quite a drive to hit the ball out in an area where once players hit what some would call “Camden Yards specials,” balls hit in the air that would be outs in most parks, but not in Baltimore.
The Orioles are intending for the park to play more fairly now. Since 1992, more homers have been hit in Baltimore than any other park, and nine of the other current major league venues have been around that entire time. More homers were hit at Camden Yards in the last 20 seasons, and 18 of the parks now in use have existed in that span.
As the final panels on the padded wall were going up today, the ballpark looked very ready for a game, and there will be one there on Monday for the home opener against Milwaukee.
“They are just putting the finishing touches on it and certainly it will be ready for our home opener against Milwaukee,” said Jennifer Grondahl, Baltimore Orioles senior vice president of communications and community development. “I think I’ve heard our players talking about it a little bit and they seem excited. The pitchers are certainly excited.
“They (O’s baseball operations) did a lot of studies. They laid a lot of other examples from other ballparks over top and what we had, and there has been a lot of work that has gone into this. Whatever design they came up with, they knew was not only going to be approved by Major League Baseball, but good for the team.”
The outfield wall quickly expands in the left-field corner from what was 364 feet to what is now 384. In what is being called “Elrod’s Corner” - for the late Elrod Hendricks, the former Orioles catcher and longtime bullpen coach - the 90-degree angle of the wall in deep left-center is 398 feet as it meets the bullpen area and 376 in front of the ‘pen. It will certainly produce challenges for outfielders and some interesting extra-base chances for balls in play. The wall, which was 7 feet, 4 inches tall previously, is now 13 feet.
About 1,000 seats were removed, and 10 rows eliminated, mostly in sections 76-86. A few of those seats will later be made available during the season at Orioles.com/auction with proceeds going to charity. More will be announced on this later.
“I don’t think there were concerns (about the lost seats) because we were able to first accommodate the people that have been sitting there for years,” said Grondahl. “And, they have the opportunity to be in the same location and if they are not happy with that view after they come to the first game we will accommodate a move for them. But we think fans are actually going to be thinking it’s something of a novelty, to be the first fans to sit in this newly constructed left-field wall area.”
Nicole Sherry, the Orioles’ director of field operations, and her staff had to make sure the new wall and grass out there plays the same for balls in play and for players as it all did before these changes.
“You know, I don’t think it was an impact to us but it’s new,” Sherry said earlier today at the ballpark. “So, everywhere there was a wall, everything that was underneath that wall had to be dug out and a new field had to be installed in that area. Grass had to be extended thirty feet, and also warning track had to be added in that location. So, it’s just been a lot of hard work through this past winter to get it ready for the next few days.
“We’ve done a really good job of making it look like it was always there. And I think that the portion of the field that was replaced and installed is going to play just as good as anywhere else on this field.”
Here are some up-close pics via my Twitter from early today. And also I was excited to announce that I am going to host the post-game call-in show on WBAL Radio this year. Looking forward to that, starting Friday. Over the next day or so I’ll have more on some new things you can see at Oriole Park this season.
Hey there it is! pic.twitter.com/XbYJCUNc5i— Steve Melewski (@masnSteve) April 6, 2022