From dawn until dusk, the activity never ceased Media, fans, workers embrace new park

April 07, 1992|By Jon Morgan and Rafael Alvarez | Jon Morgan and Rafael Alvarez,Staff Writers

Opening day, minute by minute:

6:30 a.m. The field of dreams is a sea of cables, lights and cameras as two network morning shows prepare to broadcast. On the lower level, a truckload of T-shirts, kegs of beer and the "Today" show's Willard Scott arrive at the same time.

6:50 a.m. The sun breaks over the horizon, casting the long shadow of the B&O warehouse over Oriole Park at Camden Yards. In the outfield picnic area, "Good Morning America" host Charlie Gibson chats with baseball commissioner Fay Vincent before a live broadcast. Gibson compares the park to the great Roman Coliseum. Vincent, holding his walking cane, agrees.

7:07 a.m. Grounds crew member Tom Scarborough walks the warning track in left field, sweeping litter into a bucket. A veteran of the Memorial Stadium crew, he says: "It's a beautiful park."

7:51 a.m. In his offices below the right-field stands, Sherman Kerbal appears surprisingly serene. As director of facilities management for the Maryland Stadium Authority, he oversees everything from parking to security and park maintenance. Says Kerbal: "I'm sure there's a toilet overflowing somewhere."

8:06 a.m. Outside the Orioles dugout, Willard Scott is preparing for a live broadcast featuring Boog Powell and the mesquite barbecue he will be selling at the park. In the past half hour, Scott has inquired about crab cakes on a local radio interview and inspected three hot dogs with the works, pronouncing them fit for game time.

8:37 a.m. The sun has finally made it up and over the warehouse. As its rays reach the third base stands, they transform the empty seats from a murky, sea green to a rich Camden green.

8:44 a.m. John Oates arrives for his first Opening Day as Orioles manager. Escorted by his son and carrying a black briefcase, Oates says, "It's exciting."

8:45 a.m. In parking lot A, several Secret Service officers on hand to protect the president learn that their badges are no match for Camden Club membership. "They have to park with everyone else," an attendant says, turning their cars back.

9:22 a.m. Nickolas Stroumbis is rolling the last bit of green paint on the outfield wall. It is the third and final coat and Stroumbis assures "it will be dry."

9:55 a.m. Fran Peckay and two friends are across the street from pTC the stadium at Pickles Pub. Peckay, attending his seventh Opening Day in Baltimore, explains that they began the day with a breakfast of beer and doughnuts. He already has turned down an offer of $200 for his ticket, which he has encased in Lucite.

10:35 a.m. Roy Sommerhof, manager of stadium operations for the Orioles, is standing on top of the team's dugout, giving a pep talk to the assembled ushers. He leads them in one final practice of the greeting they have prepared: "Welcome home. Welcome to Oriole Park."

10:44 a.m. Usher and retired steelworker John Rachuba recalls his 39 years of working at Orioles games. He was at Memorial Stadium at its 1954 opening, when parking was 25 cents and beer 35 cents.

Noon Personnel for presidential security are now visible atop the stadium and nearby buildings. The owners box has been outfitted with a bulletproof shield for President Bush.

12:10 p.m. Fans are beginning to trickle in and chef Bob Gammon is splashing a chablis onto his Penne Fra Diablo at a grill set up on the member's-only "Club Level."

12:32 p.m. The Orioles are taking batting practice, and Steve Koelz is up against the third-base line wall with his glove ready. Within minutes, Sam Horn rolls one right to him. Koelz, from Falls Church, Va., says he will give the ball to son Andrew, 7. He pulls another ball out of his pocket and says he got it last year -- also off the bat of Horn.

12:45 p.m. Robert Wingate is hard at work in the massive chiller underneath the stadium. Some 30 kegs are kept here, piped to the stadium's taps through 20 miles of insulated pipes. It's Wingate's job to make sure the kegs are switched as needed. The thermometer outside the walk-in refrigerator reads a perfect 40 degrees.

1:15 p.m. At gate D, what seems like the 30th fan is asking Don Lippy if he can go out and get something in his car. Lippy agrees, but only if he can sign the man's ticket and he comes back to his gate. Ordinarily, tickets are torn at the gate so fans can't go out with several tickets and ferry friends in. But the team has printed up special collectors edition tickets and is not tearing them.

2:25 p.m. The 229th Maryland Army National Guard Band plays "Stars and Stripes Forever" during pre-game ceremonies that seem to last forever. As the band plays, former Orioles manager Earl Weaver smokes a cigarette in the home team's dugout and chats with Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson.

2:40 p.m. The Morgan State University choir gathers in the bullpen as opening ceremonies continue and pitcher Rick Sutcliffe crosses the field to warm up in the bullpen. Fans in the bleachers, suddenly reminded that there will be an athletic event today, erupt in cheers.

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