KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- There is something different about Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals: Grass.
Kansas City ripped up the artificial surface and replaced it with thick, lush grass that could hold up a golf ball, or slow down a ground ball.
"It feels much more baseball-ish," said Orioles bench coach Chuck Cottier.
Orioles hitting coach Lee May, who played in Kansas City, approved the change wholeheartedly. "You've got some give to the field now," he said. "That other stuff was like walking through a parking lot."
For years, Kansas City was a park made for speedsters. Hard-to-reach fences, the artificial turf, big walls. But the fences have been moved in, their height reduced. "This will make it a much different hitters' park," said Cottier.
Several Orioles outfielders reported that the grass is hard and very fast. "In some places it really hasn't settled," said Jack Voigt. "I was taking balls out there, and every once in a while the ball would kick right or left at a 45-degree angle."
Damon Buford said: "The balls take a big bounce."
Several others commented about the new smell of Kauffman Stadium. The smell of freshly cut grass. A baseball-ish smell.
Gray caps get hook
Those gray caps the Orioles were supposed to wear on the road have been shelved, after numerous players expressed the opinion that they look utterly hideous. Instead, the Orioles will wear a black cap with an orange bill.
"We'll still wear the other hats," said manager Phil Regan, who said he discussed the caps with an unnamed member of the front office yesterday. "We'll wear them on special occasions, to change our luck or something if we're on a [losing] streak."
Around the horn
Center fielder Andy Van Slyke rested his strained left forearm yesterday, passing up batting practice, but he's expected to start today. Ditto for catcher Chris Hoiles, whose sore right shoulder seems to be improving. Hoiles did skip infield practice yesterday. . . . Starting pitchers Kevin Brown and Arthur Rhodes pitched well against a team of White Sox minor-leaguers in Florida yesterday. Regan wasn't exactly sure if they would be in uniform for today's game. . . . The possibility of acquiring reliever Rob Dibble from the White Sox was discussed some more within the Orioles organization, but Regan, feeling good about the relievers on his roster, said he'd rather go with the guys he has now. . . . Jeffrey Hammonds, who is expected to start in right field today, has worked out without his brace the last several days, but Regan would prefer that he wear it another week.