Visitors to Camden Yards will be treated to plenty that is new and different at Tuesday's All-Star Game. And not all of it will be in the batter's box.
Anticipating the big game, the Orioles and the Maryland Stadium Authority are working busily on a package of ballpark refinements. They are installing new audio speakers that will bring the sounds of the game to Eutaw Street. They are adding benches and improving landscaping beside the B&O; warehouse ticket office.
And in a change that figures to startle motorists passing the stadium on Russell Street, the team and the stadium authority are overseeing major changes in the large "Oriole Park at Camden Yards" sign that hangs above the ballpark's home-plate entrance.
After a week of remodeling, the sign's stainless steel letters are set against new, orange-tinted aluminum panels (matching the pre-cast concrete of the stadium's exterior) and are enclosed within a brick-colored frame. The sign also can be illuminated for the first time, from lighting fixtures being installed on the plaza below.
The changes, at a cost to the stadium authority of roughly $18,000, are designed to correct an irritating flaw: The sign was rarely visible.
"The letters looked great if the sun was shining on them. If it wasn't a direct hit, they were lost," said Bruce Hoffman, the stadium authority's executive director.
Last week, Triangle Sign & Service, the Baltimore company that hoisted the letters into place last year, removed the 23 stainless steel characters from their truss. The sign remodelers moved the aluminum backdrop and frame into place Tuesday. Yesterday, the letters were reattached, completing the job.
Last year, the stadium authority and the Orioles agreed that changes should be made to improve the sign, Hoffman said. Those plans weren't carried out until recently, in part because the two sides were focused on other projects around the ballpark, which opened in April 1992.
"The real bottom line is that we were busy. We just plain didn't have time to get to it," Hoffman said. "With the All-Star Game coming, we want the stadium to look as well as it can."
Other changes should make the All-Star Game more enjoyable for players, ticket holders and advertisers. They include:
* Murals in the ballpark concourse. The stadium now has a pair of 55-foot-long murals, which hang above the concourse behind home. The murals, painted on a low-hanging ceiling, show a pennant flag for the team's championship years, including divisional and league titles and World Series victories in 1966, 1970 and 1983.
"One of the things we've noticed looking at the old parks is that things tend to build up over time that remind you that the club has a wonderful and rich tradition," said Janet Marie Smith, an Orioles vice president and the team's top ballpark planner. "This is another chance to do that."
* New advertisers for the outfield and bullpen walls. These changes will last only until the All-Stars are out of town next Wednesday. Gatorade, sponsor of Monday's All-Star Workout, will get a hand-painted sign on the outfield wall for that event only. The sign comes down for Tuesday night's game.
* A sound system for Eutaw Street. The stadium authority also is investing in several long-term improvements, including the speakers that will pipe music and other announcements to the area between the outfield seats and the B&O; warehouse.
Hoffman said plans are to use the sound system to pipe music to Eutaw Street on non-game days.
The All-Star Game even has brought a stadium improvement that benefits the players. In response to many requests, air-conditioning systems were installed in the ballpark's batting and pitching tunnels.
Said Smith: "That's something lots of folks will be grateful for."