Outside, the seats were empty, with Opening Day still three months away. A snow blanket, getting thicker by the moment, covered the field at Memorial Stadium.
But, under the right-field stands, Baltimore Orioles coach Elrod Hendricks was directing the first of thrice-weekly workouts that serve as a tuneup for spring training.
Until the middle of February, the Orioles who live in the area will throw from indoor mounds and hit against a pitching machine in indoor cages.
"I was hoping for a good day so they [pitchers] could long-toss before they got on the mound," said Hendricks. "But I wouldn't take a chance of putting them out in weather like this."
So, Hendricks kept a careful eye trained on each pitcher's seven-minute workout, because, he said, if they threw too hard too early, "they really can do more danger than help themselves."
Kevin Hickey uncorked a high-velocity pitch and immediately received a caution flag from Hendricks.
"I'm ready to go three innings," said Hickey. "I've been working out since the second week after the season ended. I'm so hyper for next season to start, I'm taking tranquilizers."
Strength and conditioning coach Al Johnson has been holding weight-training and conditioning sessions for interested players since mid-November.
Pitchers Hickey, Pete Harnisch, Mike Linskey, Anthony Telford, Curt Schilling and Gregg Olson and position players Steve Finley, Randy Milligan and minor-leaguer Melvin Wearing have attended.
Pitcher Dave Johnson said he has been working out at "a Holiday Spa, mostly because you can run there and they have more machines," and outfielder Mike Devereaux also has hit in the batting cage.
Now, Hendricks is stepping up the pace.
"We're using the same program we use in spring training," he said. "We want the pitchers to be up to 15 minutes [of throwing] by the time we leave here. Last year, we had to force-feed them down there [because of the lockout that delayed the start of camp], and some guys got tendinitis early in the season."
By the first week of February, pitchers probably will be throwing changeups and will experiment with breaking balls the next week.
"But, basically, we want them to build fastball muscles," said Hendricks. "The more fastballs, the more arm strength."
Meanwhile, the hitters at the stadium and at shortstop Cal Ripken's house (he has a batting cage) are developing "some kind of calluses," said Hendricks.
"There will still be blisters in spring training, but at least they'll have a foundation."
* The Orioles have signed utility infielder Tim Hulett to a one-year contract worth $327,500.
He is the third to sign among nine Orioles who were eligible for salary arbitration.
"We're working hard on the arbitration players, and we're whittling them down," said Orioles general manager Roland Hemond. "That's our main focus right now."
Hulett batted .255 in 53 games last year after recovering from a broken bone in his hand and a rehabilitation assignment with the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings.
* Former Oriole Brian Holton said he has agreed to terms with a National League team, but would not divulge which one because he has not signed the contract.
Holton pitched in 33 games with the Orioles last year, going 2-3 with a 4.50 ERA, then accepted assignment to Rochester, where he finished the season.
"This is a real good situation for me," he said. "I'll go back to the National League, be a middle man again and see what happens. My family is very happy."
* Milligan, Harnisch, Finley and Johnson will depart this week on the annual Oriole Cruise.
"When the pitchers come back, they'll be starting from scratch to eliminate the soreness," said Hendricks.
* The minor-league department has signed infielder Manny Garcia, who was released by the White Sox.
He will go to minor-league camp on the invitation of scout Jim Gilbert.