While a new natural playing surface is being installed for the first time since the stadium opened back in 1993, the outfield fences also will be moved in 10 feet in center field and the left-center and right-center field power alleys.
Harbor Park’s current dimensions -- 333 feet to left, 410 to center and 318 feet to right -- don’t seem imposing and are on par with Camden Yards, but it has long had the reputation of being a pitcher’s ballpark. The stadium’s layout along the Elizabeth River contributes to balls dying in the outfield, even though last year’s home-run figures were higher than normal.
The hope is that moving in the fences will make the park play more true and help the organization evaluate its Triple-A players more evenly. For example, Orioles top position player Jonathan Schoop hit nine homers in 2013, but none came in 31 games at home. Nine of club home-run leader Jason Pridie’s 15 homers were hit away from Harbor Park.
The project is expected to take about six weeks.
The Orioles’ agreement with all of their minor league affiliates ends after the 2014 season, but the timing of the upgrades don’t correlate with that fact, a club source said.
There is talk of the Orioles playing an exhibition game in Norfolk this spring after their Grapefruit League schedule, but nothing has been finalized yet.