Camden Yards is like Fenway, only better


While the Orioles were winning three out of four from Boston over the weekend in Fenway Park, I was touring the O's half-built park at Camden Yards -- and continually being reminded of its similarities to Fenway.

"This park," said tour guide Nolan Rogers, of the Maryland Stadium Authority, "will have the feel of an old-time ballpark like Fenway but it will have the most modern, state-of-the-art conveniences."

Watching the O's vs. the Red Sox from Beantown, I was reminded of the nearness of Fenway's box seats to the playing field. Voila! Another similarity.

"The seats in our new park," Rogers went on, "will be 12 feet closer to the field than the seats at Memorial Stadium are. It'll be more like Fenway Park."

There's at least one more striking similarity.

"In rightfield," Rogers added, "we're going to have an auxiliary scoreboard 25 feet high and 90 feet wide that'll give scores of out-of-town games. A ball hit over that scoreboard is a home run. This'll be a Little Green Monster like Fenway's Green Monster [37 feet high] in leftfield."

Anyone who has ever watched a ballgame at Fenway Park can only approve of a park here that will incorporate some of that charming park's characteristics, including the irregular dimensions of the playing field.

The park at Camden Yards will be an improvement on old ones like Fenway or Memorial Stadium in many ways. Seats in the new parkwill have six inches more leg room than 33rd Street and will be three inches wider.

Although skeptics still refer to the new park by such names as Schaefer's Folly, Blackmail Stadium or Taxpayers' Park, the evidence becomes more tangible daily: the new place is going to be terrific.

* John Oates may or may not know as much about baseball as Frank Robinson, but it's clear that the Orioles are responding differently to the new man. The O's have more life and look as if they're having fun again. Supporting that is Tim Hulett's comment over the weekend from Boston:

"We're playing really well right now. The atmosphere is good and we kind of have the hunger to get a win every day."

* The tennis rankings computer is merciless. When Jimmy Connors, once of the Baltimore Banners in World Team Tennis, took half-his-age Michael Chang, 19, four sets in the French Open before having to quit with cramps and exhaustion, people may have thought Jimbo was back. Connors went into the French ranked No. 324 in the world. His play in Paris probably will bring him up to No. 200.

* Towson State's Cinderella-like rise to the NCAA championship game in lacrosse this year is making a folk hero of Tigers coach Carl Runk. He'll be the speaker at J. Patrick's in Locust Point a week from Thursday.

Says East Baltimore-born and raised Runk, who has coached at Towson for 24 years: "I can't get over how nice it all was, the way everybody treated us at the Final Four. I've had a taste of it and now I want another one."

* If retired Pimlico general manager Chick Lang is successful in helping Frederick Weisman to buy Rosecroft and Delmarva Downs, look for Lang to lure an old Maryland favorite -- Al Karwacki -- back home to be GM of the two harness tracks. Karwacki, once Bowie's general manager, is now working in California.

Says Lang of Karwacki: "Al would be perfect. He knows racing. He's well liked. He understands the legislature. He's even run a harness track [Freehold in New Jersey]."

* One man who wasn't surprised that only 8,293 turned out for the NCAA championship lacrosse game in a time when other sites have been producing 20,000-plus is Richie Moran, the coach at nearby Cornell.

Says Moran, who'll be in Baltimore for the Lacrosse Classic at Johns Hopkins this weekend: "That's just the way Syracuse is. They lost the Syracuse Nats because they didn't draw. They lost indoor lacrosse. Unless you flood the town with freebies you won't draw."

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