NEW YORK - The latest buzz created by interleague play will be the loudest this weekend in the Bronx. It will silence the passing 4 train, and perhaps the many detractors of a format that has undergone a significant change this year.
For the first time, teams in the American League East will play the National League West, which puts the Los Angeles Dodgers at Camden Yards beginning tonight. What are the chances that images of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale will appear on the video screen, a reminder that the Dodgers haven't been in Baltimore since the 1966 World Series?
The Orioles will travel to Arizona and San Francisco in two weeks, bringing them face-to-face with both the world champions and the incomparable Barry Bonds, and creating matchups a little more enticing than anything Montreal or Florida could bring to the table.
"After playing the [NL] East for so long, it'll be good to see some other parks. There are some awesome yards out there and you want to go out and see how they did it," said Jeff Conine. "For guys who have only played in the American League, they get a chance to see some of the greats of the other league."
But nothing will compare to the excitement already being generated around Yankee Stadium in anticipation of Bonds' arrival with the Giants. Baseball's single-season home run king is coming to town, making fans here feel like they've been dealt a royal flush.
"It's going to be a packed house," said Yankees catcher Jorge Posada. "I think it's going to be fun for the crowds, and I think it's going to be fun for the players to see the guy. But once the game gets started, it's the same old game."
The same old game, with an added twist. Bonds never has played at Yankee Stadium, never has felt the tug of the legends he's being compared with in what's supposed to be the twilight of his career.
"I think Barry Bonds playing anywhere is going to draw a crowd. That part is good," said Yankees manager Joe Torre.
"This is a pretty good ballpark for a left-handed hitter, but I think the fans are going to enjoy it, no question. They get to see him at Shea, but Yankee Stadium is pretty special. I know a lot of the players and New York writers who talked to him said he was looking forward to coming here."
But is Torre looking forward to Bonds' arrival? "He's probably beat my brains out somewhere when I was managing the Cardinals," he said. "You see that video all the time where he hits the home run and throws his arms up in the air. That was against me."
If facing Bonds is old news to Torre, it's awfully fresh to a rookie like Nick Johnson.
"Growing up, I've watched him in the stands and stuff. It will be fun to watch him play," Johnson said. "I'll probably go out there and check out batting practice."
He'll have lots of company. Players will crowd around the cage, as they did when Mark McGwire was sending baseballs into the stratosphere.
"I'd like to say we look forward to seeing him play, but we really look forward to seeing him take batting practice. After that, I hope he doesn't do much," said Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.
"We enjoy watching the guys play, especially guys you don't get to play against because they're in another league. But you don't want them to do well. You say hello to them and wish them luck in batting practice."
The new interleague format also brings the San Diego Padres to Camden Yards next week. The Orioles continue to play the Philadelphia Phillies, with Major League Baseball not wanting to disrupt what it considers a natural rivalry, but are spared the rest of the East Division.
"In the beginning it was exciting just to be playing somewhere in the National League," said Jason Johnson, who starts tomorrow night against the Dodgers. "Then it was kind of boring seeing the same teams every year. I'm glad they switched it up. I hope they do the same thing next season. I've never been to that ballpark [Pac Bell] in San Francisco, but I've heard it's great. And the one in Arizona, too."
Many of the Dodgers will be seeing Camden Yards for the first time, utility infielder Jeff Reboulet being a notable exception. Other players, including Shawn Green, Dave Roberts and Paul Quantrill, have told catcher Paul Lo Duca that it's "the best place to play in the American League."
"It's an awesome ballpark, great fans, good atmosphere, so I'm looking forward to it and having some fun," Lo Duca said.
"I'm looking forward to going to Camden Yards," said first baseman Eric Karros. "I really can't say the same about Tampa, but Baltimore should be fun. It's unfortunate we're not going to Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium. As a fan, I'd like to have an opportunity to play there."
Dodgers manager Jim Tracy has been to Camden Yards while coaching in Montreal, back when interleague play didn't include cross-country flights. "It is definitely a baseball venue," he said. "It's a group of people who love their baseball."
Even when it looks a little different.