Hitters feel at home at Camden Yards

SIDELIGHT

July 10, 1994|By Brad Snyder | Brad Snyder,Sun Staff Writer

Jeffrey Hammonds' ninth-inning home run showed how quickly games can be decided at Camden Yards.

"In this park right now, if you throw the ball down the middle you watch what will happen," Oakland A's manager Tony La Russa said after Thursday's game.

Hammonds showed him last night by hitting a 1-1 curve off A's reliever Bob Welch 363 feet into the left-field seats. The homer gave the Orioles, who had trailed 7-2, an 8-7 victory reminiscent of a game in September.

"It was a line drive," Hammonds said of his first game-winning homer. "I realized by the flight of the ball, 'I think I got that.' "

Hammonds isn't the only one to go long recently. American League hitters are on a record-setting home-run pace this season at Camden Yards.

The 70 home runs they have hit in the first 47 games -- a 121-homer pace -- puts them on track to break the club record of 110 set at Memorial Stadium in 1987 and the ballpark record of 87 last season.

Eleven of those homers came in one game, when the Orioles and California Angels tied a major-league record on July 1.

Camden Yards has become a home-run hotbed and a favorite among American League hitters.

"I look forward to coming to Camden Yards," A's catcher Terry Steinbach said. 'One, it's a nice park, and two, it's lit up very well. Offensively, you can pick up the ball very well."

Oakland starting right-hander Steve Ontiveros found that out quickly last night. He threw one down the middle of the plate to the second Orioles batter, Chris Sabo, who smacked a two-run homer into the left-field seats.

Then Orioles starter Sid Fernandez returned the favor by giving up a bases-empty homer to Mike Bordick and a two-run shot to Ruben Sierra two innings later.

Short fences and small foul territory make the park a hitters haven, but the recent hot weather, swirling winds and a good hitting background have contributed to the record-breaking pace.

"The wind out here plays a big part," Orioles catcher Chris Holies said.

Hoiles should know. His 35 home runs at Camden Yards rank him first on the all-time list.

The ballpark, with the right-field line 318 feet away, was designed for left-handed power hitters, not a right-hander like Hoiles. But the warehouse knocks down the wind when it's blowing out, causing balls hit to left field to carry better.

"I think righties have just as good a chance to hit it out of here as lefties," Orioles hitting coach Greg Biagini said. "There are some things about this park that they probably didn't anticipate when they made it."

Last night Welch, like so many other American League pitchers who have given up home runs at Camden Yards this season, did not anticipate Hammonds sending his third pitch over the fence.

"There are no good pitches that go over the fence," Welch said. "It was kind of inside. He hit it the way he supposed to."

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