McDonald's nemesis is powerful addition

March 05, 1991|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Evening Sun Staff

SARASOTA, Fla. -- He's only a year out of college, at least two seasons away from the Nameless Stadium at Camden Yards, and an indelible entry in Ben McDonald's memory bank that won't go away.

But yesterday, during an otherwise long, dreary and dull workout, Paul Carey was big news in the Orioles' spring training camp.

Carey is a 6-foot-4, 230-pound lefthanded power hitter from Stanford University. He still can be seen occasionally on an ESPN highlight film that captures his game-winning, 10th-inning grand slam off McDonald that enabled Stanford to continue on and eventually win the 1987 College World Series.

He was acquired by the Orioles yesterday in a bizarre and complicated transaction that would have made the late Bill Veeck proud. That the deal involved Roland Hemond, who used to work for the most recent Hall of Fame inductee, and Mike Veeck, son of the man who first tried to bring major-league baseball to Baltimore, provides an intriguing sidelight to this episode.

After failing to reach agreement with Detroit following his fourth-round selection in the 1989 draft, Carey was a repeat fourth-round choice last year. However, he was not picked by a major-league organization, but by the independent Single A Miami Miracle (a name for the ages, or a Veeck).

To make a long, drawn-out, very complicated story as short and simple as possible, the Miracle requested and was granted permission to participate in the 1990 draft, and subsequently to barter the rights to Carey. The dispersal of the Miami players was part of the Player Development Contract that evolved from the dispute between the major and minor leagues last winter.

Carey remained in limbo until a week ago, when a procedure was set up, giving major-league teams until noon yesterday to bid for his services. "According to the information that I have," said Veeck, general manager of the Miracle, "upward of eight to 10 teams submitted bids."

The Orioles paid an undisclosed sum for Carey and also agreed to send a player to Miami on loan this season. "We asked for someone similar to Paul, a legitimate prospect," said Veeck, "but we don't know who it will be."

Hemond seemed ecstatic about getting Carey. "We've got someone who can reach the warehouse," he said, referring to the building behind the rightfield wall at the new downtown stadium.

"It's like getting a high draft choice in March instead of June," said Hemond.

Scout Ed Sprague, who had highly recommended Carey -- last year, and again last week -- likewise was excited upon learning the Orioles had submitted the winning bid for Carey.

"I'm not saying he's going to come on the scene right now and make an impact," said Sprague, "but he's so strong and such an intelligent hitter that I think he's capable of becoming a 25 to 30 [home run] guy. He's going to have times when he looks awful, but as far as raw power goes he's got as much as anybody. I just hope people are patient with him and don't expect too much too soon,"

Sprague, who has been influential in bringing six Stanford players into the Orioles' system. Sprague's son, Ed Jr., is also a Stanford product and was the No. 1 draft choice of the Toronto Blue Jays in 1988.

Carey likewise was excited upon hearing the news from Sprague.

"It's unbelievable," said Carey. "I'm pumped up, real excited. I've got a lot of friends there and I've heard nothing but good things about the organization."

In Miami, Veeck, in his own way as much a maverick as his famous father, had nothing but praise for Carey. "Aside from hitting .327 for us, he was a natural leader -- with great work ethics," said Veeck.

"If I have one last picture it is sitting in the trailer [which serves as the Miracle's office] and watching Paul walk to the batting cage at 10 a.m. on a day that we were playing a night game."

In a world where the phrase "great attitude" is overused, Veeck said, "Paul is one who has a really great attitude."

The work ethic and attitude, while important to the Orioles, don't carry nearly as much weight as Carey's power potential. He broke Mark McGwire's Pac-10 career home run record (with 56) and holds four other Stanford school records.

"He's got some juice," said Orioles' pitcher Jeff Ballard, a Stanford graduate who has worked out with Carey the last few years. "And in a couple of years, he'll have some real juice."

In a touch of irony, McDonald was pitching batting practice when word came down that Carey was joining the Orioles. One of the batters hitting against him was catcher Doug Robbins, a former teammate of Carey's. The home run that McDonald gave up to Carey in 1987, when both were freshmen, provided a turning point in the big righthander's career.

It was after that shattering blow that McDonald decided to give up basketball at LSU and devote all his energies to baseball. He had a picture of the Stanford celebration following Carey's home run taped in his locker for the next two years at LSU. "And I still have it at home," said McDonald.

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