When Oriole Park at Camden Yards opens next spring, Cal Ripken will visit 81 times a year, maybe even 82.
Kirby Puckett, Roger Clemens and other baseball luminaries will stop by a few times each summer.
There also will be permanent residents. Maybe you wouldn't know their names. But you might recognize the root systems.
Trees suddenly are dotting the ballpark landscape. There are Sugar Maples, Princeton Sentry Ginkos, Skyline Honeylocusts and London Plane trees. The botanists in the audience might even have noticed a few Bradford Pear trees in front of the home-plate entrance.
By Opening Day, about 500 trees will be planted throughout the 85-acre ballpark site. A few will flower. Most will provide shade. And all will have been set in place by Kent Sundberg, the chief landscape architect for the project.
Sundberg, who works for Wallace, Roberts & Todd, a Philadelphia landscape architectural firm that devised the master tree and shrub plan for the ballpark, knows what plant life can do to enhance an urban setting. In the case of Oriole Park, he says it can do plenty.
"The Orioles always have treated this as being a baseball park, not a baseball stadium," Sundberg said. "So that's what we're trying to achieve, a park atmosphere rather than a stadium atmosphere."
Oriole Park will not be a forest. But even in the first season, the trees will be taller than most American League shortstops. The Orioles and the Maryland Stadium Authority made certain of that. At their request, Sundberg and his crew scoured nurseries throughout the East Coast looking for big trees. It took awhile. But they finally found 500 that met the standard -- a measurement of at least 4 1/2 inches around the tree trunk a foot from the ground.
You won't see trees at Oriole Park dying of thirst very often, or maybe ever. The landscape architects have eliminated that problem with an elaborate irrigation and aeration system. At prescribed times, underground valves will open around the site and roots from Russell to Eutaw streets will be soaked. Shoes won't, because all watering will be done underground.
Stadium authority executive director Bruce Hoffman said the irrigation system was a necessity for plants to live to see a second Opening Day. "If you don't irrigate, things die or you've got skimpy-looking shrubs and trees that don't fill out," he said.
As trees take root, other parts of the ballpark are moving ahead. This week, steel girders that will support the main scoreboard are expected to begin arriving at the ballpark. Once the steel is erected, electronic components will be installed. The entire assembly will be one of the last projects completed -- probably in March.