Quanardo Frost rose early from his Catonsville bed yesterday morning, with visions of baseball tickets dancing in his head.
He had been resigned to the notion that he would miss today's historic Baltimore Orioles-Chicago White Sox game, the last Memorial Stadium Opening Day scheduled before the Orioles move to Camden Yards next year. He was given new hope Saturday night by an announcement that 1,500 unsold tickets lost in an Orioles ticket-office blunder would go on sale at 10 a.m.
When he arrived at Memorial Stadium two hours early, a line of fans already stretched down the hill, out of the parking lot and onto the sidewalk on 33rd Street.
But patience and determination paid off.
"I didn't think I'd make it," Frost said. The pair of tickets he bought will allow him to watch the game from right-field upper-row seats.
"I thought with time being set up an hour for daylight savings, I'd have a jump on everyone," he said.
He was lucky. More than 1,100 tickets were sold by 10:45, according to Orioles publicity director Rick Vaughn, and a lot of people who arrived after Frost had to settle for single or obstructed-vision seats.
Matthew J. Maslanka, 23, a merchant seaman from Glen Burnie, made sure that would not happen to him.
When he and a friend, Tom Minghini, were told by another friend Saturday night that tickets were available, they decided to drive to the stadium and sleep in the car rather than risk a chance of missing today's game.
"I figured there would be no way I would get up in time if I went to bed," said Maslanka, who arrived at 3:30 a.m., only to find that people in sleeping bags had been there since midnight.
"I didn't want to be where that guy in the yellow hat is," he said as the first tickets were being sold, nodding in the direction of a man at the end of the line.
Orioles officials said sales activity dropped off sharply after the first wave of ticket buyers crested and that 40 obstructed-view seats remained unsold at 3 p.m., when they decided to close the ticket window because of lack of business.
The Orioles, who since February had been touting the game as a sellout, became aware of the ticket snafu Saturday night, less than 48 hours before the first pitch was to be thrown.
Bob Aylward, vice president for business, said team officials were making a "final check" of tickets sold for the game when they discovered the error.
He attributed the problems to changes in the team's ticket operation this year, including confusion created because different computer software is being used. "We have multiple [computer] programs in use. You have a starting and stopping point for each program. Sometimes, you leave a gap," Aylward said.
It's the latest in a series of headaches the Orioles have experienced this year trying to distribute tickets. There have been delays getting out mailings to some season-ticket holders and, as late as last week, team officials still were attempting to get an accurate count of how many of the full-ticket plans had been sold.
"It's been a most difficult year in the ticket office," Aylward said.
Many problems occurred because the Orioles changed ticket vendors, Aylward said. For several years, Orioles tickets were handled years by TicketCenter, owned by Centre Management. But that changed when Centre Management relinquished its TicketCenter franchise and purchased the much larger Ticketron.
"We always had great success with the TicketCenter people. We thought we'd be able to get the same level of service," Aylward said.