Camden Yards patrons will know exactly how hard Armando Benitez is throwing this season, and fans who don't have the benefit of sitting behind home plate won't have to guess whether Mike Mussina's last pitch was a curve or changeup.
New message boards at Oriole Park will provide instant radar-gun readings on each pitch and identify the type of pitch just thrown -- fastball, changeup, slider, etc. One set of signs will be located on the upper-deck facing in left field, the other on the facing of the lower deck along the right-field line.
It's one of several cosmetic changes designed to make Camden Yards more user-friendly, according to Mike Lear, Orioles executive director of marketing and broadcasting.
Lear first saw the radar-gun readings displayed at the All-Star Game in Philadelphia last year, and immediately liked the idea.
He went to Orioles general manager Pat Gillick for permission -- some executives might be leery of the idea of providing such information for all to see, including opposing teams and scouts -- and Gillick and manager Davey Johnson approved.
"They agreed that it would be a great enhancement for the fans," said Lear, noting how fans would be able to agree or disagree with specific pitch selection. "This allows them to be inside the game that much more."
Orioles assistant GM Kevin Malone said he and Gillick figured that the potential pluses far outweighed the potential drawbacks -- for example, pitchers falling into the habit of trying to generate more impressive radar-gun readings.
Malone said: "I think that would be more of a problem at the minor-league level. At the major-league level, with what they're trying to accomplish, their mentality should not be worrying about how hard they're throwing, but in trying to get hitters out."
Identifying pitches can be an inexact science that challenges even the most veteran of scouts. Lear said the team will hire someone "who knows the game, who's been around the game" to assume that task.
The Orioles will replace some signs adjacent to the left-field bullpen with what Lear referred to as Tri-Vision -- advertisements that rotate -- and the club is hoping to remove some advertising from the outfield wall. "We want to maximize our revenue without defacing the park," said Lear.
New JumboTron features are designed to invite more fan participation, including a video game used in many other parks. Lear also said the Orioles will put a greater effort into promoting the Dugout Club, designed for kids. "We want to get kids more involved," he said.
Pub Date: 1/29/97