Cooling off in new park to be easier


The faithful who go to hot, steamy Memorial Stadium tonight to watch the Orioles vs. Angels may take some comfort in the knowledge that better times are ahead -- and this is more than a reference to the relief expected tomorrow from the heat wave.

One of the many nice things about the new ballpark at Camden Yards, into which the O's will move to start next season, is it should be cooler than the park on 33rd Street.

"Overall, it will be more comfortable," says Janet Marie Smith, Orioles vice president for planning and development and the club's liaison to the new park.

"For one thing, the roof over the upper deck will provide protection for about half the seats. The fans in our upper deck now just bake in the sun.

"There are also some places in the new park with good ventilation and some nice breezes because of the openings in the construction.

"There are some other things that will make people more comfortable in hot weather. There will be more concession stands, more restrooms and more water fountains. Whether all this will result in a drop in temperature might be too bold to predict."

* Cooler or not, the lure of the new park remains powerful.

Yesterday at the club's Memorial Stadium offices, two season ticket sellers who are holed up in a small, windowless room all day, all year round, taking orders, continued to field calls from people phoning in orders. A visitor was impressed.

"People still buying tickets in spite of the club's record?" he asked. (The Orioles, besides being 17 games out of first place, have one of the worst records in the majors, 37-54, .407.)

"They want to make sure they get tickets for next year in the new park," answered Kathy Stefany. "That's what most of them tell me."

Said the visitor, noting that attendance is running 112,619 ahead of last year, when the Orioles drew 2,415,189: "This club could draw 3 million next year in the new park."

Replied the other salesman, Rick Fahliecht: "More. At least I think they'll draw more than that if they have a good season on the field."

And to think Baltimore people actually worry that a new owner would want to move the franchise to another city! An owner would have to be a lunatic to walk out on all this.

* One of my favorite quotes of the Orioles season came from Cal Ripken Jr., when he was asked last Friday night, his night to be honored for winning the All-Star Game MVP award, what he was thinking as he rounded the bases after hitting his 20th home run (he hit No. 21 the next night).

Said Cal: "I was just thinking about how thankful I am to be a baseball player and to be able to do what I enjoy."

* Speaking of Cal, in conjunction with The Evening Sun's "It's Your Call" feature yesterday asking who was the best Bird of them all, I asked the opinion of a club employee who has been around long enough to have seen all the players on the ballot (B. Robinson, F. Robby, Palmer, Murray and Cal). His answer, I thought, was a pretty good one.

"Long term, Brooks," he said. "Short term, Frank. Cal's at mid-career. It's too early to judge him."

* I'm starting to feel sorry for the much-criticized Juan Bell. I mean, Bill Ripken and Tim Hulett are hurt, so there's no one else to play second base, and Bell, a shortstop, is playing out of position. Sure, he has screwed up a couple games, but the boos don't help a 23-year kid from the Dominican Republic who is already trying to adjust to a lot of things.

* I don't think I've ever read anything written by Phil Collier. Who in Baltimore ever sees a San Diego newspaper anyway? But I've covered many World Series with Collier and seen him serve as official scorer and I know how dedicated he is to the craft of baseball writing.

I know something else about Collier. A few years back, there was a point when the San Diego Padres said they would be moving to Washington. According to them, it was a done deal. At that moment Phil Collier cried. For that he received low marks for objectivity, which is expected of journalists, but high marks for heart. You can imagine how he felt Sunday going in the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown.

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