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A quarter-century old, Oriole Park at Camden Yards still setting the standard

A quarter-century old, Oriole Park at Camden Yards still setting the standard

Next year, Oriole Park at Camden Yards will celebrate its 25th anniversary, and it’s still great.

According to a survey of all 30 major league ballparks by Stadium Journey, it’s ranked the highest. 

I’m often asked about my favorite ballparks. I’ve been to 53 major league parks—all 30 current ones—and 23 no longer in use. 

Of the 30 contemporary ones, and I’m including Atlanta’s Turner Field, which will be replaced for next season by SunTrust Park, there aren’t any awful ones. 

Even some of the ones that Stadium Journey ranks among the lowest—Milwaukee’s Miller Park, Chicago’s U.S. Cellular Field, Tampa Bay’s Tropicana Field, Miami’s Marlins Park and Oakland’s Coliseum, have some redeeming features for fans. 

The park we’re most familiar with here has some competition for the top spot. San Francisco’s AT&T Park and Pittsburgh’s PNC Park have many champions and are highly rated in this survey. In particular, I’m impressed with the Giants’ home with its dynamic view of the Bay and intimate feel. 

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Stadium Journey inexplicably rates Yankee Stadium 29th. Its atmosphere is great, if a bit busy, and though it’s extremely expensive, the ballpark remains impressive. 

What’s most striking about the survey is that a ballpark that’s now in middle age is still so well regarded. Most of the parks that came after it, and 21 of the 30 are newer, are still well behind Oriole Park in many ways. 

Three years ago the Braves announced they were going to replace Turner Field, built for the 1996 Olympics, and it hosted its first baseball game five years after Camden Yards. 

While that was a shock, it shouldn’t then be surprising that Texas’ Globe Life Park in Arlington (opened in 1995) and Arizona’s Chase Field (1998) may soon be replaced. 

The Orioles’ home doesn’t look much different than it did in 1992. It truly revolutionized ballparks, and those that were built just before it, Toronto’s Rogers Centre (opened in 1989) and U.S. Cellular Field (1991) look as if they’re from a different and faraway time. 

A few years back, the Orioles added a roof deck in center field, but other than that, there haven’t been many major changes though the team continues to study improvements. 

There are certainly a few things that be improved. Other than Boog’s Barbecue, the food choices, particularly for non-meat eaters aren’t great, the sound system isn’t wonderful, and compared with many newer stadiums, the scoreboard is small and sometimes hard to read. 

Watching a game at Oriole Park is still wonderful. The view is great, and while it’s disappointing when the stands aren’t full, the ticket and particularly the parking prices, aren’t terribly expensive, especially when compared with Nationals Park. 

One of my favorite parts of covering a game there are the fans. During the 2014 season, I began showing off their dedication by showcasing a jersey of a former Oriole each game.

Most fans wear a jersey featuring a current favorite: Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones and Manny Machado, but I enjoy finding an obscure one. 

How many other parks have fans wearing jerseys of players from 40 40 or 50 years ago? This past season, I found fans wearing Luis Aparacio, Curt Blefary and Dave McNally jerseys. 

While Oriole Park has yet to host a World Series, there’s still hope. When it was still new, Cleveland’s Progressive Field, then Jacobs Field, hosted World Series in 1995 and 1997.

At that time, it vied with Camden Yards as one of baseball’s top parks. More than two decades later, it’s fallen to the middle of the pack. 

The hope here is that 25 years from now, Oriole Park will continue to provide joy to fans in this area, and that it will still be considered one of baseball’s best. 

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Kevin Gausman changes jersey number to honor Roy Halladay

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USA Today Sports

Kevin Gausman changes jersey number to honor Roy Halladay

BALTIMORE  -- Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman will wear No. 34 next season as a tribute to Roy Halladay, who was killed in a plane crash last month.

Gausman announced the switch Thursday on his Twitter account. The right-hander wore No. 39 last year.

Gausman and Halladay are both from Colorado, and the Orioles pitcher said he followed Halladay's career closely and idolized him.

In a post next a photo of his new jersey, Gausman wrote: "Roy gave me the inspiration that I could fulfill even my biggest of dreams -- being a pitcher just like him."

Gausman concluded: "The loss of Roy is tragic and saddening, but I feel honored to have watched everything he achieved."

Halladay died on Nov. 7 when his small plane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. He played 16 big league seasons, winning the Cy Young Award in each league and being named an All-Star eight times.

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Astros, Dodgers set Series HR record amid juiced ball buzz

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USA TODAY Sports

Astros, Dodgers set Series HR record amid juiced ball buzz

HOUSTON (AP) -- Home runs kept flying over the wall at Minute Maid Park, on line drives up toward the train tracks, on fly balls that just dropped over the fence.

Seven more were hit in Game 5, raising the total to a World Series record 22 -- with two possible more games to play. Twenty-five runs were scored in a game started by the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw and the Astros' Dallas Keuchel, Cy Young Award winners regarded as among baseball's best.

After a season when sluggers outpaced even their steroid-era predecessors for home runs, some are convinced that something is amiss with the baseballs.

"The main complaint is that the balls seem a little bit different in the postseason, and even from the postseason to the World Series balls," Justin Verlander said Sunday, two days before he takes the mound in Game 6 and tries to pitch the Astros to their first title. "They're a little slick. You just deal with it. But I don't think it's the case of one pitcher saying, `Hey, something is different here.' I think as a whole, everybody is saying, `Whoa, something is a little off here.'"

A record eight home runs were hit in Game 2, including five in extra innings, and Game 5's seven long balls would have tied the old mark. The 13-12, 10-inning Astros' win Sunday night was the second-highest scoring game in Series history.

Keuchel was quoted as saying after Game 2: "Obviously, the balls are juiced."

Not so obvious to everyone, even amid the power surge.

"I haven't personally noticed anything. I haven't tried to think about it either," Dodgers reliever Brandon Morrow said after giving up two homers in Game 5. "It's not something you want to put in your own head."

Same for Kershaw, even after giving up his record eighth homer of the postseason Sunday.

"I don't really pay attention to it," Kershaw said. "I just assume that both sides are dealing with it, so I'm not going to worry about it."

This year's long ball assault topped the 21 of the 2002 Series. Anaheim hit seven and Barry Bonds and his San Francisco Giants slugged 14 over seven games. That was the year before survey drug testing.

Speculation that something has changed includes a study claiming to have found differences in the size and seam height of balls since the 2015 All-Star break.

"I know there was talk about different sizes and some of the baseballs were slightly bigger and some were smaller. Some of the seams were higher, some of the seams were lower. But, no, it's been consistent," said Rich Hill, who will start Game 6 for the Dodgers. "I think that just has to do with conditions -- if it's colder it's going to be slicker. If it's a little bit warmer out or humid, I think you're going to find that you're going to have a little bit more of moisture to the baseballs."

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred insists nothing nefarious is going on.

"I'm absolutely confident that the balls that we're using are within our established specifications," he said Friday.

Verlander rejected that assertion.

"I know Mr. Manfred said the balls haven't changed, but I think there's enough information out there to say that's not true," he said.

Verlander also does not think it's an issue of how balls are rubbed up before games.

"I know baseball uses the same mud for every single ball for every single game that's played," he said. "I think there's a broader issue that we're all missing."

On the day he become commissioner in January 2015, Manfred said, "I'm cognizant in the drop in offense over the last five years, and it's become a topic of conversation in the game, and it's something that we're going to have to continue to monitor and study."

Offense started rebounding during the second half of the season, and a record 6,105 home runs were hit this year, 2.4 percent more than the previous mark of 5,963 set in 2000 at the height of the Steroids Era.

"I think it's pretty clear," Verlander said. "I think our commissioner has said publicly that they wanted more offense in the game. I'm pretty sure I'm not fabricating a quote here when I say that. I think it was already All-Star break of `15, or right before, when he said that."

San Francisco's Johnny Cueto and Toronto's Marcus Stroman also think the balls have changed, with Stroman blaming slick balls for a rise in pitcher blisters -- an affliction which has struck Hill a few times in the past couple seasons, too.

Houston's Brent Strom and the Dodgers' Rick Honeycutt, the World Series pitching coaches, both were quoted by Sports Illustrated on Sunday as saying the slickness of the ball made throwing sliders difficult.

"Everyone is entitled to their opinion," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "I don't see a ton difference, but I'm not going to get in a verbal war with coaches and players who think otherwise."

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts had a similar view but acknowledged the power records got his attention.

"The pitchers talk about it feels different in their hand. The one component is the slickness and guys at different ballparks rub it up differently," he said. "Sort of feels the same to me. But it's hard to argue the numbers. You know there's more velocity. Guys are swinging harder. I know in Los Angeles the air was light. It was hot. The ball was flying, carrying more than typically. But I hesitate to try to give you any insight because I really don't know."

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