Homers at the heart of ballpark's appeal

Usually, Oakland A's manager Tony La Russa tells his pitchers just to throw the ball down the middle of the plate.

Not at Camden Yards.


"In this park right now, if you throw the ball down the middle you watch what will happen," La Russa said.

You can tell it good-bye.


American League hitters are on a record-setting home-run pace at Camden Yards this season. After last night's four homers, there had been 70 home runs hit in 47 games, a 121-homer pace that puts them on track to break the club record of 110 set at Memorial Stadium in 1987 and the ballpark record of 87 last season.

Eleven homers came in one game, when the Orioles and California Angels tied a major-league record on July 1.

Camden Yards has become a home-run hotbed and a favorite among American League hitters.

"I look forward to coming to Camden Yards," A's catcher Terry Steinbach said. 'One, it's a nice park, and two, it's lit-up very well. Offensively, you can pick up the ball very well."

Oakland right-hander Steve Ontiveros found that out quickly last night. He threw one down the middle to the second Orioles batter, Chris Sabo, who smacked a two-run homer into the left-field seats.

Then Orioles starter Sid Fernandez returned the favor by giving up a bases-empty homer to Mike Bordick and a two-run shot by Ruben Sierra two innings later.

Short fences and small foul territory make the park an obvious hitters' haven, but the recent hot weather, swirling winds and a good hitting background have contributed to the record-breaking pace.

"The wind out here plays a big part," Orioles catcher Chris Holies said.


Hoiles should know. His 35 home runs at Camden Yards rank him first on the ballpark's all-time list.

The ballpark, with the right-field fence 318 feet away, was designed for left-handed power hitters, not a right-hander like Hoiles. But the warehouse knocks down the wind when it's blowing out, causing balls hit to left field to carry better.

'I think righties have just as good a chance to hit it out of here as lefties," Orioles hitting coach Greg Biagini said. "There are some things about this park that they probably didn't anticipate when they made it."

They did try to create a hitter's park, causing managers like La Russa to tell his pitchers not to throw it over the heart of the plate at Camden Yards.

"Whenever the guy hits the ball its going into the seats," La Russa said. "The ball carries all over.



Opponent: Oakland Athletics

Site: Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Time: 1:35 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Athletics' Ron Darling (7-9, 4.62) vs. Orioles' Jamie Moyer (3-6, 5.26)

Tickets: Several hundred scattered singles remain, not including bleacher and 275 standing-room tickets that go on sale when the gates open.



Last night's Orioles-Athletics game at Camden Yards did not end in time to be included in this edition. A complete report can be found in later editions. For a report on last night's game and other Orioles information, call Sundial at (410) 783-1800, ext. 5023 (in Anne Arundel County, call [410] 268-7736, ext. 5023).


The top five Orioles and opponents' home run leaders at Camden Yards:


Chris Hoiles 35


Mike Devereux 28

Leo Gomez 26

Brady Anderson 25

Cal Ripken 24


Dean Palmer, Texas.. .. .. .. .. .. 7


Danny Tartabull, Royals/Yankees.. . 5

Ken Griffey Jr., Seattle.. .. .. ...5

Frank Thomas, White Sox .. .. .. .. 5

Mickey Tettleton, Detroit.. .. .. ..5

Juan Gonzalez, Texas.. .. .. .. .. .5

Joe Carter, Toronto .. .. .. .. ....5