Opening Day means finishing touches

April 05, 1992|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Staff Writer

Starting tomorrow, Oriole Park at Camden Yards starts being the official home of the Orioles and stops being the official workplace of hundreds of welders, plumbers and trim carpenters.

But just because the baseball team has moved in doesn't mean that all the finishing touches have been applied: They haven't.

During the next few weeks, a number of small jobs will be carried out at the ballpark to smooth edges and to better accommodate the players who soon will be pursuing an American League East title there.

On the list of things to do (and recently done):

* Paint the dugouts. For Friday's exhibition game, dugouts on the playing field and in the bullpens were naked concrete, and they probably will remain so for tomorrow's opener. Soon, though, both sets will be painted Camden Green, the official ballpark shade.

Orioles assistant general manager Frank Robinson recommended the paint job for the field dugouts so that infielders could more easily spot batted balls. The bullpen dugouts will be painted at the urging of Marty Springstead, the American League's executive director of umpiring.

Springstead visited the ballpark Friday to inspect the playing field and help draft its ground rules.

"They just haven't been able to paint in this weather, and if it snows or rains over the weekend, what can they do?" said Springstead, a former AL umpire. "We can't say, 'There's no game. Forget it.' Fifty thousand people stay at home because we have a little painting to do."

* Complete the vertical screen behind home plate. By the time the Orioles and the Maryland Stadium Authority finally had decided on the screen they really wanted, a drape screen had been hoisted above the lower-box seats and Opening Day was a few days away.

Since then, a crew of iron workers have been working long hours to replaced the drape with a 20-foot, 2-inch vertical screen. The chicken wire screen was in place for Friday's Orioles-New York Mets exhibition game, despite predictions to the contrary earlier in the week by the ballpark's construction managers. The reason: On Thursday, work crews put in more than 13 hours on the job, then return to finish while the teams were taking batting practice Friday.

The screen may be receiving more attention as the season progresses and planners review the height of the screen. Friday, fans were not seated in the terrace boxes behind the screen, an area where some foul balls not caught by the screen conceivably might land.

Bob Wyatt, construction manager for the ballpark, said he alone asked that fans be excluded from the area for the exhibition game. Referring to the present vertical screen, Wyatt added: "I ,, am absolutely confident it will work. But there is nothing like watching it work to be absolutely confident."

* Unveil the picnic-grove viewing porch. Dozens of fans saw Friday's game from a railing that borders the picnic area in deepest left-center field. Until about six weeks ago, it wasn't a railing; it was a 4-foot concrete wall. And it wasn't a view of the playing field; it was a 4-foot concrete wall.

The Orioles requested the change, which was completed in early March, and paid for it: $30,000. Team spokesman Rick Vaughn said the area might be used for standing-room seats on dates that the ballpark is sold out.

* Sweep the place. Ballparks aren't supposed to be the tidiest buildings. But before they leave, the construction managers say this one will be neat. Tom Rogers, the deputy project director, was disappointed to see some construction debris in the umpires' tunnel behind home plate on Friday.

He scowled. "It's not perfect, and we'd like it to be perfect," Rogers said. "See this dust? This is not acceptable. I'd like to be able to eat off the floor."

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