The players began filing into Joe Cannon Stadium before noon yesterday, in full uniform and eager to inaugurate the new Harmans Park baseball complex.
Don Shump, 16, a senior third baseman at Northeast, sat in the Arundel Suns' dugout and marveled at the facility as he awaited his turn at batting practice.
"This place is awesome. I definitely like this," he said, prior to the start of the 11th annual Anne Arundel County Suns-Oriolelanders All-Star Baseball Game.
"This reminds me of Memorial Stadium," he said. "No lip on the grass, a beautiful infield. I was here last week and it wasn't all the way finished, but I saw the infield and couldn't wait to get here and play."
Neither could his Arundel Suns teammates, who ended the Oriolelanders' six-year winning streak with a rain-shortened, 4-1 victory. The Oriolelanders now hold a 7-4 series edge.
The game was halted after four innings -- the only imperfection on the day in the eyes of Jay Cuccia, assistant to the director at the county's Recreation and Parks Department.
"The Recreation and Parks Department is extremely pleased with everything that happened today," he said. "It was a great crowd and everyone seemed pleased with the facilities -- the players and the fans. We're looking forward to a lot of quality baseball being played at Joe Cannon Stadium."
Cannon himself was an early arrival, one of over 1,500 fans in attendance. He entered the stadium two hours before the scheduled 3 p.m. start.
Having taken another look at the finished product bearing his name, Cannon said he was "overwhelmed."
"This is first-class all the way," he said. "It's a real honor for me, a real honor."
As usual, numerous big-league scouts were in attendance.
"That's definitely in the back of my mind," Shump said of the scrutiny. "But I don't want to put extra pressure on myself."
Ironically, Shump made the final out of the day, striking out with the bases loaded.
One of Shump's former teammates at Northeast fared much better. Shortstop Andy Srebroski doubled twice, scored a run and was named Outstanding Player.
Srebroski, The Anne Arundel County Sun's Player of the Year in 1990 who now attends Anne Arundel Community College, said the scouts' presence wasn't a motivator.
"I just came out here to play ball," he said. "You can't press too hard. You just have to go out and play."
Another former Eagle, Charlie Buckheit, started for the Oriolelanders and was the losing pitcher. The right-hander was removed in the third inning with the bases loaded, two outs and a 3-0 count on Jay Schline (Chesapeake).
Buckheit was charged with all four runs. He gave up five hits, walked four and struck out three.
Old Mill's Doug Stockman, the second of four Arundel Suns pitchers used on the day, was named Outstanding Pitcher after striking out three in the second inning. He also gave up two hits, but did not allow a run.
The Gold Glove Award went to the Oriolelanders' Marty Zombro, who had three putouts in center field.
Buckheit found himself in immediate trouble when leadoff hitter Craig Crawley reached on an infield roller to short and Srebroski doubled to center. But he struck out Wayne Williams (Chesapeake) and Harry Stepney (Annapolis) and retired catcher Earl Williams (Andover) on a long fly to center.
Buckheit wasn't as fortunate in the second inning. Pat McCoy (Old Mill) lined a one-out triple to center and scored on a Schline sacrifice fly, putting the Suns ahead, 1-0.
McCoy's triple was the fourth in the 11-year history of the game.
The Oriolelanders tied the score in the top of the third on a Mike Martin infield hit and stolen base, and a David Carroll single. Carroll moved to third when Wayne Williams misplayed the ball in right, but Suns' pitcher Rick Forney (Annapolis) struck out Bill Pulsipher and retired John Hammond on a soft liner to Srebroski.
The Suns took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the inning on a Crawley leadoff walk and consecutive doubles by Srebroski and Wayne Williams. Bases-loaded walks to McCoy and Schline accounted for the other runs.
Much of the day's discussion centered not on the outcome, but on the ballpark itself.
"This stadium is the nicest around here," said Arundel Suns hurler Brian Toronto, a Broadneck graduate who pitched at Anne Arundel Community College the last two years.
"It's going to improve the quality of baseball. You'll see tournaments here soon. This is going to be a powerhouse baseball town."
Cannon said, "Anne Arundel County already has a tremendous baseball program. This will help even more."