A non-fan's guide to the O'S Opening Day lineup means cheering Cal and, yes, Billy, too

April 05, 1993|By Jean Marbella | Jean Marbella,Staff Writer

Like churches on Easter Sunday, baseball parks on Opening Day are magnets for the less-than-faithful. Call them agnostics, arrivistes, interlopers or pretenders, they can be woefully unfamiliar with the rites and rituals of attending a baseball game -- especially as practiced by Orioles fans in all their idiosyncratic glory.

If you're one of these strangers in the strange land of Oriolemania, fear not. With Camden Yards just 2 years old this season and still drawing all sorts of curiosity seekers, you have plenty of company.

Still, you might want to learn some of the local customs to keep the natives from getting too restless around you.

Here's a guide that will help you fake the big O today and throughout the season.

Whom to cheer for

Obviously, the guys in orange. But there are some permutations here.

Today, for example, you'll want to holler for at least one of the other guys, Bill Ripken.

The O's released Cal's irrepressible little brother over the winter, and he landed with the Texas Rangers. But as they say, blood is thicker, especially when it comes to our own first family, the Ripkens of Aberdeen. So let the big bad management know how you feel about the way they ripped up the Rips this winter. (Ripken pere, Cal Sr., was fired as third-base coach this winter, too.)

Real O's fans are legendary for their decency, and will cheer certain deserving players on other teams. So feel free to engage in some bipartisan fan-dom -- yours won't be the only voice raised when, say, Bo Jackson comes to town.

When to cheer

* Before the announcer even finishes saying, "Batting third, No. 8 . . . "

* When someone in the stands catches a foul or homer and Rex Barney hands out a "contract."

* When an O's pitcher walks the long walk back to the dugout after being taken out.

* After the grounds crew nattily rolls up the tarp after a rain delay.Where to sit

Anywhere you can get a ticket. Tickets to home games can be as scarce as milk and bread during a snowstorm.

Of course, if you have a choice, avoid Section 70, home of the dreaded off-shoulder glances. Here, the seats point you toward left field, meaning you have to twist your neck to catch most of the action.

The bleachers have their fans -- at $4 a seat, they're a cheap thrill if you don't mind watching ants batting. Even cheaper, at a dollar less, are the 300 standing-room-only tickets -- sometimes the only tickets left on the day of the game.

Skyboxes and front-row seats offer fine, albeit increasingly corporate, vantage points, of course, but other less obvious primo spots are sprinkled throughout the park. Section 336, for example, gets Janis Rettaliato's vote.

"I love the top row, right behind home plate," says the free-lance photographer, who chronicled the gestation, birth and early infancy of Camden Yards for her book, "The Baltimore Ballpark Project: The Creation of a Baseball Stadium." "I like the openness of it. The city falls into twilight right in front of you, and the game is going on at the same time."

Sightseeing

Not sure where to look when faced with a field full of anonymous players? Here are some tips from those who keep their eyes on the O's:

"I know he's a hot name now, but I've always found [left-fielder] Brady Anderson very enjoyable to watch,"Ms. Rettaliato says. "From his first at-bat on, his uniform is dirty. He hustles. I also like [utility player] Mark McLemore -- he's fun to watch, he works hard and you find you're rooting for him. And just for the sheer joy of seeing a true veteran at work, I would say [pitcher] Rick Sutcliffe. He's marvelous."

David Hill, editor of the non-official program, GameDay, advises keeping an eye on pitcher Mike Mussina. (Of course, it could have something to do with the fact that the O's exciting young pitcher is GameDay's current cover boy.)

Telling the Harolds apart

Baines and Reynolds, Reynolds and Baines. The O's acquired both Harolds over the winter, thus doubling the new-kids-on-the-block confusion. Here's who's who:

* Baines has the beard; Reynolds has the mustache.

* Baines wears No. 3; Reynolds wears No. 6.

* Baines is the designated hitter/outfielder, Reynolds the second baseman.

* Baines is from downy shore (St. Michaels, actually), Reynolds from Oregon.

Fernandomania II

If you believe in second chances, if you believe in magic, if you simply

believe, you gotta love this guy! Fernando Valenzuela, the doughy, thirtysomething former phenom, is back, and who else would give him a chance but the Orioles, legendary for offering redemption to the former greats, the never-greats and the simply great bargains of baseball.

How to fake it

* "Looks like Cal needs a day off."

* "I don't see what was wrong with Slak in right field."

* "I think Brady will be the first one to hit The Wall."

How to make enemies

* "Looks like Cal needs a day off."

* "It's so bush the way they shout 'OH!' during the anthem."

* "I like the Yankees myself."

How to get autographs

Go to a baseball card show and pay for one like everyone else.

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