Hood-less Costner shows he can handle a bat as well as a bow

July 29, 1991|By Josie Karp | Josie Karp,Evening Sun Staff

Yes, he can hit.

No, he is not a threat to Cal Ripken Jr. at shortstop.

Such were the reviews yesterday at Memorial Stadium for Kevin Costner, star of such recent blockbuster movies as "Robin Hood" and "Dances With Wolves."

And despite his baseball background in "Field of Dreams" and "Bull Durham," he was not altogether comfortable with his pre-game role on 33rd Street yesterday.

"I went into the clubhouse and I wasn't even sure I was putting the uniform on right," Costner admitted. "I had to look around at the other guys to see how they did it."

Costner, who wore number 25, last seen on Craig Worthington's back, seemed to fit right in with the Orioles. He spit like a big-leaguer. He let out a few curses. He even escaped to the shower in order to avoid the rush of media surrounding his borrowed locker in the Orioles clubhouse after the workout.

Only his horn-rimmed, tortoise shell glasses detracted from the costume.

On the field, Costner proved he was up to the task offensively. The switch-hitting shortstop took a few minutes to get warmed up from the right side, and then promptly deposited a Cal Ripken Sr. offering into the first row of the leftfield bleachers.

"It felt good to hit one out," Costner said. You half-expected him to go on to say, "I just wanted to help the team any way I could."

For his hitting performance, Costner got two thumbs up from Orioles pitchers Gregg Olson and Bob Milacki.

"He wasn't bad," Olson said. "I've seen a lot worse."

After taking his swings, Costner trotted out to the infield to join Ripken, whom he met at the "Dances With Wolves" premiere in Washington last year, at shortstop. The two alternated fielding grounders from Cal Sr., and spent time talking "not so much about baseball as growing up and still feeling like you're a kid," according to Costner.

The visit was arranged by a mutual friend of Costner and Orioles pitcher Jeff Ballard.

"I wanted to do this just like everybody in the stands would want to do this," Costner said.

Most of the Orioles were just as happy to have Costner around as he was to be there.

"It was nice to get a chance to meet him," Milacki said. "You never think you would get a chance to meet people like that."

Milacki did, however, feel a little sorry for Costner, whose every move was recorded by an unusually large media contingent.

"He wants to come down here, relax a little bit, and take some batting practice, and it turns into a press conference," Milacki said.

At least one Oriole, however, seemed to think that the Orioles might have been better off without Costner's visit.

"It's fine if we're in first place," coach Elrod Hendricks said. "But we're not. We're not playing good ball now."

Costner's pre-game visit did little to change that fact, as the A's, led by their own Mr. Hollywood, Jose Canseco, completed a three-game sweep of the Orioles, 4-3.

Costner was not around to see the game, having already taken off for Washington. He said he had a previous engagement.

What could tear away a true baseball fan on a day that seemed tailor-made for baseball?

Not much, except maybe a round of golf with George Bush.

Batting practice with the Orioles and golf with the president. Not a bad day at all, even for an Academy Award winner.

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