With new left-field wall in place, Oriole Park at Camden Yards begins 30th anniversary season

ANDY KOSTKA
Baltimore Sun (TNS)
Orioles Park at Camden Yards is shown here in a file photo. The Orioles have moved the wall in left field back as much as 30 feet in an effort to make Oriole Park at Camden Yards a bit easier on pitchers.  (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

There isn’t an official name yet, and there might never be one.

But it will be known regardless by whatever nickname catches the fancy of the fan base — something to know the right angle that now stands in left-center field of Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Perhaps Adley’s Angle, once top prospect Adley Rutschman receives his call-up to Baltimore and drives a few balls to that part of the park. Maybe the Camden Corner, or the Right Angle of Russell Street or Elrod’s Corner — which is unofficially being encouraged by several Orioles staffers in reference to longtime player and bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks, who died in 2005.

The name for that unique bit of wall, however, means less than the fact it’s in place, part of the first redevelopment of the field dimensions at Camden Yards since a brief alteration in 2001.

Oriole Park should still very well be a hitter’s haven. But the changes unveiled to members of the media Wednesday were made to bring the venue more in line with the rest of the league. No other ballpark has allowed more long balls since 1992 than Camden Yards, although only nine stadiums have been open the entirety of that span.

The homer numbers: Over the past three seasons, 655 home runs have left the park, with that short porch in left field a popular landing spot. Yankee Stadium was next closest with 583 homers, a gap of 72.

So now there’s a mini version of Fenway Park’s Green Monster in left field at Camden Yards, with the height of the wall raised from just over 7 feet to 13 feet. Previously, Oriole Park boasted the shortest wall in left-center field of any Major League Baseball stadium.

The distance to the left field foul pole remains at 333 feet, but the left field corner was pushed from 364 feet to 384 feet. The deepest part of that right angle is 398 feet before jutting out to an unchanged 376 feet at the bullpen.

“It has been an extraordinarily homer-friendly ballpark, and we’re just trying to level the playing field,” said Jennifer Grondahl, the Orioles’ senior vice president of communications and community development.

New wall may help attract pitchers: The alterations could also help attract more free-agent arms. A lengthy rebuild plays a role in the lack of free-agent pitchers executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias has landed — the Orioles have signed just five pitchers to major league deals since Elias arrived in 2019 — but the dimensions aren’t an incentive, either.

The changes to the dimensions — and to the roster philosophy in the future — could attract more free-agent pitchers. According to an investigation from The Baltimore Sun, at least 14% of the home runs hit at Camden Yards since MLB’s Statcast tracking system began in 2015 would have stayed in play with the ballpark’s new layout.

“We still expect that this will remain somewhat of a hitter’s park, and we like that about Camden Yards,” Elias said in January. “But the conditions here have been very extreme towards the very most extreme in the league. It’s not a secret. It’s been the case for decades. And part of having a winning program is the ability to recruit free-agent pitchers, and that has been a historical challenge for this franchise. There’s just no way around that. So do I think it’s gonna help going forward? The proof will be in the pudding, as the games get played here over the next couple of years.”

The dimensions: The dimensions might take more getting used to for left fielder Austin Hays in the field rather than at the plate. While the foul pole stays in the same location, the wall rapidly gets deeper — 51 feet deep in what is approximately 30 feet across.

Then there’s the challenge of that new right-angled wall in left-center, hugging the side of the bullpen. There could be collisions along that portion of the wall if a fielder isn’t cognizant of the swift jut-out.

“That’s an area where you’re going to have to really, especially if you’re running wide open, make sure you’re peeking at the wall, know where you’re at,” Hays said last month.

The new wall eliminated 1,000 seats along 10 rows, although Grondahl said those displaced fans have been accommodated in the new area. And for fans who want a piece of Camden Yards history, 25 pairs of removed seats are available through auction, with the sales going to charity.

Groundskeeper weighs in: Once enough of the construction of the wall was complete, Nicole Sherry, the Orioles’ head groundskeeper, began plans for how to develop the new portion of outfield under her jurisdiction. With the help of contractors, Sherry and her staff dug out the existing dirt to add new drainage and irrigation pipes. Then they added layers of gravel, sand and dirt before laying grass down and creating a new warning track.

“For the most part, I think it looks seamless,” Sherry said. “It’s gonna be a little patchy as far as visual to start, but as far as playability on it, they’re not going to feel anything different.”

Other Camden Yards additions: There are other additions to Camden Yards this year, with an exhibit of rotating memorabilia celebrating the 30 years of history at the stadium. Bill Stetka, the director of the Orioles Alumni program and the team’s historian, began combing through archives looking for which moments and players to highlight.

In the initial series of exhibits, there’s Cal Ripken Jr., Brian Roberts and Cedric Mullins memorabilia on display. And then there’s a jersey from Lenny Webster, who played in Baltimore between 1997 to 1999 and has the distinction of being the last Oriole to wear No. 42 before it was retired across baseball in honor of Jackie Robinson. April 15 will be the 75th anniversary of the day that Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball.

“Try to make it a little eclectic,” Stetka said. “Not just every big-name player.”

New twist on classic park: In many ways, Camden Yards was already eclectic, with the warehouse beyond right field and the old-fashioned feel that triggered a wave of new ballparks in its likeness. The outfield dimensions, by comparison, were more or less symmetrical.

Now, though, that outfield fence has a new look. And whether fans call the sharp angle by the bullpen Elrod’s Corner or something else entirely, it’s a new twist on a classic park.