- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 12, 2002

BALTIMORE Camden Yards' brief days as a haven for pitchers are no more.
The Baltimore Orioles yesterday announced plans to reconfigure their ballpark of the last 10 years to its original playing dimensions just one year after moving home plate back seven feet, which led to a spacious outfield and fewer home runs.
Citing poor sightlines for fans and players, the Orioles received permission from Major League Baseball to restore the old dimensions, a move that may reinstate Camden Yards' reputation as a hitter's park.
The first of the new wave of retro ballparks to feature short fences, Camden Yards was given a makeover last season as a result of an overhaul of the playing surface and drainage system. To compensate, the club moved home plate back seven feet and angled the field 2 degrees to the right.
The changes, while subtle, did appear to have an effect. The Orioles hit only 58 home runs at home (down from 90 in 2000), though that drop in production was due in large part to a less offensive team as a whole. Still, opponents' homers at Camden Yards fell from 106 to 94, offering some proof that the extended dimensions impacted play.
The 152 combined home runs were the fifth fewest in the major leagues, a total far below the record 229 hit in 1996.
"We were a bad-hitting ballclub last season," manager Mike Hargrove said. "The plate being moved back and over isn't the reason we hit .239 [actually .248] as a team, but it may have perpetuated bad approaches to pitches from hitters, and we want to rectify that."
Perhaps less obvious than the change in the numbers on the outfield fences was the changed angle of the entire field. Countless players from both the Orioles and opposing teams noted that the batter's eye in center field appeared to be at an unusual angle and thus changed their perception of an approaching pitch.
"We never had a hitter come in and moan about it, but I had a number of players come in consistently throughout the season and say something was different," Hargrove said. "That will affect a player's ability at times to be consistent."
The new (actually, old) dimensions will be noticeable, particularly between the power alleys, where distances will be reduced anywhere from six to 12 feet. For example, the wall in left-center stood 376 feet from home plate last year; this season it will be 364 feet. The deepest point in the park (deep left-center) will change from 417 feet to 410 feet, and the right-field power alley will be down from 391 feet to 373 feet.
The changes are less dramatic down the lines, with left field moving in from 337 feet to 333 feet and right field from 320 feet to 318 feet. Home plate will be 59 feet from the backstop, as opposed to 52 feet a year ago.

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