Director ends preparation marathon

LONG NIGHT'S JOURNEY PR

April 07, 1992|By Susan Reimer | Susan Reimer,Staff Writer

Opening Day and the moon had not yet set. And it would be a good long while before the sun rose on the first day of the first season at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

"God," said Rick Vaughn. "This is the night that will not end."

The Orioles public relations director was fresh from what he called a "Roland Hemond power nap" -- one hour and a long shower.

It was now 5:30 a.m. It had been 4 a.m. before Vaughn and his staff had finished collating and stapling 11,000 pages of notes into 550 packets, and taping 300 names to seats in a pair of standing-room-only press boxes.

And, in just a few hours, more than 700 members of the media would arrive at the stadium -- from as far away as Paris and Tokyo and as close as across town. Half would clap Vaughn on the back and try to talk of old times. The other half would grab his sleeve and whine. Most of them would need Vaughn to solve a crisis for them.

Not that he wouldn't have plenty of his own before Opening Day closed.

By 8 a.m., he had supplied a steady stream of Orioles legends and executives to network morning news shows set up in remote locations all over the ballpark, and he was feeling pretty good about himself.

"This is the major production of the day," said Vaughn as he scrambled to keep rival producers happy and in neutral corners of Camden Yards.

"Where is the enemy set up?" said Charlie Gibson of "Good Morning America."

"Who was this guy Camden?" "Today's" Willard Scott was demanding to know.

Vaughn's proudest moment came when he maneuvered the stadium executive director, Bruce Hoffman, onto the air with his TV idol, Scott.

"You know he mentioned this to me two years ago and I remembered," said Vaughn, as he tried to warm himself under a TV light in the bone-chilling cold of dawn.

And it was adrenalin talking when Vaughn said: "You know this is going pretty darn well."

Catching himself in mid-reverie, he pounded the padded outfield wall and howled: "What am I saying? The sun isn't even up yet. I must be crazy. . . ."

Vaughn's assistant, Bob Miller, arrived in a tuxedo, bringing with him Vaughn's priceless pass. Without it, rent-a-cops all over the stadium would have stopped Vaughn with a stiff arm in the chest.

"I've been showering with it for three weeks," said Vaughn. "Opening Day and I leave it in my hotel room."

He also left his shoes there. And his money. And his shirt.

It was 11 a.m., and the reporters were starting to arrive at the front door. Vaughn was there to greet them. And he was there to turn back the "press" who try to talk their way into the ballpark.

"I've been here 10 minutes, and I've already deflected three phonies."

Fleeing to the field, Vaughn was the mediator between the umpiring crew and Sports Illustrated, which wanted a wide-angle, home-plate camera shot in the first inning.

The Secret Service has closed off the elevator and the stairs, and the arriving reporters are trapped in the lobby, Vaughn was told. He cursed under his breath.

"It's not like we haven't been talking about this for three weeks," he said.

There were not enough spots for the still photographers -- more than 100 of them -- near the field, so Vaughn had to plead with the chief of the umpires and a representative of the American League office to allow photographers on the field during the game.

"Only the experienced ones," said Vaughn. "The ones who know how to dance."

A reporter from a tiny radio station asked where his press box seat was located. "Follow the concourse all the way to where it ends in left field and then take the steps all the way to the top.

"You're going to love it," Vaughn said.

He and his wife and two children returned from spring training at 1 p.m. March 16. He stopped by the office for a few minutes that day, and he basically has not been home since.

Knowing that, you can understand why, when the umpires threatened to halt the game if the lights were not turned on soon, Vaughn considered ripping the metal door off the locked power box when a key cannot be found.

"You have to understand we've been planning this every day since Oct. 6, the last day at Memorial Stadium," he says.

And, knowing that, you can understand why he felt such a welling up of emotion when the Morgan State University choir and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra played the national anthem.

"All these reporters here," he said as Rick Sutcliffe put the finishing touches on a mercifully short two-hour game. "Hopefully, we've given them a lot of good opportunities to write something beautiful about this place."

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