Reynolds is all-star off the field, too

KEN ROSENTHAL

January 25, 1993|By KEN ROSENTHAL

Shortly after joining the Orioles, Harold Reynolds was asked for money by a woman wheeling a baby carriage in Baltimore. Reynolds had an appointment with the team doctor for a physical, but after brushing past the woman, he turned around.

"He was out there a good 10 minutes," recalls Lisa Waskiewicz, the Orioles public relations assistant who accompanied Reynolds on that cold December day. "I'm watching him from the door. I see him put a blanket down on the baby in the carriage. Then he hands the woman something.

"He comes back in and says he had to go find out what the story was, because he hates to see children out on the street with their parents begging for money. He wanted to make sure she wasn't on drugs, find out why she needed money and ask how she was going to use it before he gave it to her."

That's Harold Reynolds.

The Orioles new second baseman is a worthy addition to a team featuring three community relations superstars -- Cal Ripken, Glenn Davis and Rick Sutcliffe. If you can measure such a thing, Reynolds might be the most special.

Reynolds announced he would buy $25,000 worth of tickets for charity the day he signed his $1.65 million contract with the Orioles, but his contributions go far beyond money. He donates his spirit, his energy and, most importantly, his time.

"He's one in a million, he really is," says Joe Chard, the director of community relations for Reynolds' former team, the Seattle Mariners. "I can't say enough about the guy. He would do things, and people's jaws would just drop."

Chard recalls how Reynolds would speak at an assembly for 1,000 students, get mobbed afterward and notice the one lonely kid standing off to the side. "We'd be on a schedule," Chard says. "But he'd want to spend time with the kid, see if he was

having any problems, see if he could help."

Reynolds did so much community work in Seattle, Chard couldn't keep track of it all. Every so often, he'd hang up the phone baffled after a caller thanked him for an appearance by Reynolds. It wasn't unusual for Reynolds to act on his own.

Too good to be true? Not this guy. If Reynolds is half as good a player as he is a person, the Orioles will have an all-star. Put it this way: Cal Ripken will find it impossible to dislike the second baseman replacing his brother, Bill.

Reynolds is so friendly, so upbeat, so engaging, he could have the same positive impact on the Orioles' clubhouse as Sutcliffe did last season. "He's the easiest guy in the world to get along with," assistant public relations director Bob Miller says.

Yet it's his charity work that sets him apart. Reynolds was named former President Bush's 195th Daily Point of Light in 1990, becoming the first athlete to receive that honor. He won the Roberto Clemente Award as the player who best exemplifies the game on and off the field in 1991.

Now 32, he grew up the youngest of eight children in a single-parent home in Corvallis, Ore. "We were real poor, but it seemed like, as kids, we had everything we wanted," he says. "I just know had people not helped us along the way, we wouldn't be where we're at today."

So, when he signed a three-year contract with Seattle in 1990, he threw a party for 900 impoverished children from Corvallis. When he gives away tickets to underprivileged youths, he insists on meeting with them for a 30-minute "Reynolds Rap Session" before batting practice.

The Orioles were aware of all this before they signed Reynolds in December. Reynolds addressed their minority marketing committee when the Mariners visited Baltimore last August, mesmerizing the club officials in attendance.

"As we sat there listening to him, we were kind of stunned," Orioles marketing director David Cope says. "He left the room, and we all said in unison, 'Wouldn't it be great if this guy was on our club?' Roland [Hemond] must have had the room bugged."

The Orioles general manager, of course, did nothing of the sort. Hemond wanted Reynolds because he's a switch-hitter with speed, not because he'll establish scholarship funds for inner-city youth. But, as always with these things, character didn't hurt.

One of Chard's favorite stories is from last September, when it became clear Reynolds was about to lose his job to Bret Boone and leave the Mariners as a free agent. Reynolds wanted to attend a University of Washington football game at the Kingdome one Saturday, and asked Chard to secure two tickets.

Only later did Chard learn the identity of his guest.

Bret Boone.

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