Park is the stage and star TV shows air from field on Opening Day.

April 06, 1992|By Jean Marbella | Jean Marbella,Staff Writer

The sun was still pink with the last blush of dawn but at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the action on the field was already into extra innings.

Hours before this afternoon's Opening Day game, the park was abuzz with activity: Network and local television shows were broadcasting live from the wind-churned field and workers were sweeping and polishing and readying and testing seemingly every nook and cranny of the stadium that will welcome some 48,000 fans, including President George Bush. Curiosity seekers strolled up to the green wrought iron fences and red brick arches to peek inside the still closed gates.

The early-morning activity in the park might be described as three-ring circus -- but that would be miscounting by dozens. Over in the bullpen picnic area was "Good Morning America's" Charlie Gibson interviewing baseball commissioner Fay Vincent. Down in right field was "Today's" Joe Garagiola interviewing the legendary Robinsons, Brooks and Frank. In front of a dugout were weatherman Willard Scott and first baseman-turned-barbecue-guy Boog Powell -- over a table of hot dogs with everything.

"We're tons of fun," chortled Mr. Scott, noting the combined girth of interviewer and interviewee. "I really am impressed," the "Today" showman said of the park, echoing the sentiments of seemingly everyone who has passed through the stadium's doors in its first days of life. "I'd heard so much about the inside, but the outside is spectacular."

For Brooks Robinson, the park was a trip down memory lane.

"This is what fields looked like when I broke into the majors in the '50s -- Ebbets, Forbes, Crosley," Mr. Robinson said. "That's what it's all about. I think it's a great trend for baseball. In the '70s, the baseball stadiums they built, you closed your eyes and opened them and you didn't know where you were. You open your eyes here, you know you're in Baltimore."

Stadium workers were so busy with last-minute touch-ups, they only occasionally looked up to see the celebrities around them.

"Hey, is that Boog Powell?" one man sweeping in the stands called out to another.

"I think that is his big old self," the other answered.

Grace Blackstone, owner of A & G cleaning service, had 17 workers sweeping and polishing in the stands.

"We represent Charm City," said Ms. Blackstone. "Looking good is really important, especially when we have so many prestigious people coming -- the president, the governor."

It seems a waste, all this cleaning when just hours later would

be a swell of beer-spilling, popcorn-dropping fans. But Ms. Blackstone seemed unfazed.

"We're expecting a mess today," she said. "But that's what we're here for."

Some workers arrived for what they expected would be a 20-hour day -- but they seemed happy about it.

"I'm pumped up!" declared David Jacobs, 32, a deli worker. "This is more than just a job."

"It's an adventure," agreed Robert Liverman, 22, his co-worker.

As the morning rush hour of the workaday world coursed by on the surrounding streets, several pedestrians strolled up to the stadium to peek into the field and catch glimpses of the visiting media.

Some fans apparently took the weeks of warnings about traffic jams and crowded rail cars to heart.

"They said to come here early, so here I am," said Jim Curtis, 35, of Dundalk.

But, Jim, it's 7 o'clock in the morning!

"Well, I thought I'd park, go to Harborplace," said Mr. Curtis, an unemployed steelworker.

Off work for more than a year, getting to go to Opening Day -- courtesy of some friends who are season ticket holders -- is especially meaningful.

"It's been a long, cold winter," said Mr. Curtis, bundled against the cold in a Durham Bulls warm-up jacket. "I've never been to an Opening Day, and this is the one to go to."

Other early-morning denizens weren't staying for the real event.

"I'll stay to watch the opening pitch, but I have to get on a 4:30 [p.m.] train and see a Broadway show tonight," said Phil Beauth, president of ABC's early morning and late night entertainment division. "And then we have another show to do tomorrow."

For still others scrambling through the increasingly familiar innards of the new stadium, they're not sure when they arrived for work today, versus when they left for home yesterday.

"The last week has been one big blur," said James W. Kee, director of technical services for ARA, the concessions people. "But now, it's show time."

"We finished the parade around 10 last night, then some of us were here at 3 a.m.," said Channel 2 technician John Ziemann. "It was kind of eerie, but it was great seeing the sun rise over the stadium for the first day."

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