O's power trip leads to Eutaw Street

As tempting as the images might be, the fluttering flags and that imposing building beyond right field do not entice left-handed hitters when they dig into the batter's box at Camden Yards. Trying to hit a baseball is difficult enough without trying to reach a specific target.

But when their at-bat is over, and if they are lucky enough to send a baseball soaring over the right-field scoreboard, power hitters want to know whether they cleared Camden Yards' flag court, whether the ball landed on Eutaw Street and whether it came near the 1,016-foot-long B&O Warehouse.

"It's something you enjoy — just another feather to put in your cap I guess," said Orioles designated hitter Luke Scott, who has reached Eutaw Street with homers four times.

In Camden Yards' 19-season history, 52 balls hit during games have landed on Eutaw Street, which separates the flag court from the Warehouse building.

No one has hit the building on the fly in a game, but Seattle's Ken Griffey Jr., who will be at Camden Yards with the Mariners for a three-game series starting tonight, does hold claim to a special distinction.

Griffey hit a pitch during the 1993 All-Star Home Run Derby contest that struck the Warehouse wall; it is believed to be the only recorded instance of a ball hitting the structure on the fly. It has happened before in pre-game batting practice, with former Orioles Jay Gibbons and Walter Young as well as visitors Carlos Pena of the Tampa Bay Rays and David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox reportedly reaching the wall multiple times with towering clouts.

But that's with batting-practice pitchers serving up cookies. Could it happen in a game?

Several visiting sluggers, such as Pena, Ortiz and the Colorado Rockies' Jason Giambi, who has hit three homers onto Eutaw Street in his career — tops among visiting players — believe the Warehouse is reachable only if there is a perfect storm: a warm evening with the wind blowing out and a fastball hit down the line — the shortest distance to the Warehouse, reportedly 439 feet from home plate.

Scott, the Orioles' most powerful left-handed hitter, won't discount the possibility.

"I think I could, but the conditions would have to be right," Scott said. "It'd have to be the right pitch, and the air would have to be right. Warm climate, a fastball or slider. A hanging slider about 86 to 88 [mph] with a good, tight spin because, with a tight spin, the ball will jump off the bat much better."

Scott, in his third season with the Orioles, has hit four homers onto Eutaw Street in his career. That's the second-most behind Rafael Palmeiro's five. Scott's best attempt to make in-game history was Sept. 1, when he blasted a fastball from the New York Yankees' A.J. Burnett down the right-field line.

The home run, originally listed at 412 feet, hit the Warehouse wall on one bounce.

"The first thing I thought about was for it to stay fair. Then, when I realized how far it was going, I thought it had a pretty good shot at [the wall]," Scott said. "Of course, he supplied a 96 mph fastball. That kind of helped as well."

Some people at the park that night, including one fan who was in the flag court and later e-mailed The Sun, swear that Scott's homer hit the wall on the fly. There are no camera angles fixed specifically on Eutaw Street, so the Orioles must rely on the video they have to spot the exact landing location.

And that can be tricky business. The brass marker for Scott's homer will be readjusted this offseason based on further video review. But replays clearly show that the ball struck the ground before hitting the wall.

Once a home run is hit, the club's production department assigns an estimated distance based on a grid of the park. If a homer lands on Eutaw Street, the clout is noted and, the following offseason, a baseball-shaped marker with the date, the name of the hitter and the estimated distance is placed on the approximate landing spot of the ball.

Scott said he has been out to Eutaw Street to see the home run markers and his friends and family always mention it when they see the plaques for the first time.

The marker closest to the wall commemorates Lance Berkman's homer for the Houston Astros against the Orioles' Jeremy Guthrie on June 18, 2008, which traveled 430 feet. Gibbons had one in 2003 against the Philadelphia Phillies' Brett Myers that traveled an estimated 420 feet but was nearly as close to the wall as Berkman's because it hugged the right-field line.

The longest hit to that section of the park was by the Montreal Expos' Henry Rodriguez, who smashed one 443 feet in 1997 against Scott Kamieniecki.

Unfortunately for Rodriguez and the sake of history, the ball was hit closer to right-center, where the wall tails farther away from the park.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

http://twitter.com/danconnollysun


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