Oriole newcomer throws Super Bowl bash for 1,000

February 01, 1993|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writer

It was the biggest Super Bowl party in Baltimore, a free bash at which the crowd cheered on the Buffalo Bills, but the Orioles stole the show.

More than 1,000 children and their parents swarmed into a Northwest Baltimore church last night for free football festivities and a chance to meet some baseball heroes -- Orioles' first baseman Glenn Davis, center fielder Mike Devereaux and the party host -- newcomer second-baseman Harold Reynolds.

Ten-year-olds Elijah Torres and Terence Gibson got there more than an hour early to snag the best seats. They craned their necks every few minutes to check if any other Orioles had come through the door.

Television sets were scattered throughout the Living Word Christian Center, a cavernous church off Reisterstown Road that was once a tennis barn. Tables were loaded with hot dogs, pizza, punch and potato chips -- enough to feed an army of 3,000.

Teen-agers handed out black T-shirts, donated by Merry-Go-Round Inc., with a picture of a football and the slogan, "Give Baltimore the Ball" -- the theme of the campaign to lure NFL football back to town.

Five-year-old Brian Jackson of Parkville jumped up and down and screamed, "Dallas, Dallas, Dallas." Sierra Watties, 6, and her mother, Rhonda, stopped rooting for the Buffalo Bills to meet the Orioles Bird.

And that was all before the kickoff.

Mr. Reynolds arranged the party in less than a week with the Rev. David Brown, pastor and founder of the Pentecostal, interdenominational church. Both men said they wanted to show children that they could have a good time without alcohol or drugs.

"I knew people would watch the Super Bowl, and I wanted to create an environment that's caring, an environment that's safe," Mr. Reynolds said between signing Orioles posters and baseballs.

During his 10-year career with the Seattle Mariners, he built a reputation as one of baseball's best all-around players. He was the same kind of local hero in Seattle as Cal Ripken is in Baltimore.

In 1990, he threw a party for 900 impoverished children from his hometown, Corvallis, in Oregon. Now 32, he grew up the youngest of eight children in a single-parent home.

"I grew up in a white community and a white neighborhood," he said. "It's very exciting to be here in Baltimore, which has such a large black community.

"I think any time someone black rises up out of the crevice of things, he's a role model. I don't mind that. I want to give them something to look up to."

The Orioles attracted Mr. Reynolds with the new ballpark and the promise of the opportunity to play every day.

He averaged 158 games with the Seattle Mariners from 1987 to 1991, before second baseman Bret Boone forced him out of the daily lineup last season.

Mr. Reynolds is determined to continue his community work here in Baltimore.

On Dec. 11, the day he signed his $1.65 million contract with the Orioles, he pledged to give away $25,000 worth of ballgame tickets to underprivileged children.

While youngsters clustered around yesterday, begging for baseball autographs, their parents were debating who would win the football game.

Many said they enjoyed the get-together more than the game.

"It's kind of unusual to have a Super Bowl party in a church," acknowledged Woody Bennett, a member of the church who played with the Miami Dolphins from 1979 to 1989.

"But we want people to know you can still have fun and go to church."

Rhonda Watties offered another point of view on the Super Bowl bash. "Hey, it might end the era of the football widow," she said with a grin.

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