Orioles lose, but on this day it doesn't matter

OPENING DAY BRINGS OUT KID IN ALL

April 06, 1993|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Staff Writer Staff writers Rafael Alvarez and Joan Jacobson contributed to this article.

You want the magic of Opening Day?

Forget the weather, forget the traffic and forget the score.

Focus instead on a 9-year-old named Brian Young, a fourth-grader at Oakleigh Elementary School in Parkville.

He was at Oriole Park yesterday with a ticket, a camera and a smile.

"Every day last week seemed like five months," Brian said. "I was just waiting for this day to come."

So the Baltimore Orioles lost to the Texas Rangers, 7-4?

So what?

Opening Day isn't about endings, it's about beginnings.

It's not about protests, it's about possibilities.

And it's not about politicians, it's about kids.

The second Opening Day at Camden Yards was nothing like the first.

After all, we've now done this all before.

So there was no Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

No George Bush.

No Joan Jett.

And no sunshine.

Just a 16-year-old Parkville High School student named Nikki Laws singing the national anthem and the president of the United States arriving at the ballpark like anybody else -- on a commuter train.

And the Orioles lost as Juan Gonzalez and Dean Palmer each hit a pair of home runs for the Rangers.

But it didn't matter.

Even though it was 51 degrees when the first pitch was thrown and in the low 40s when the last out was made, even though the sun never broke through the clouds and the crowd came to the park wearing gloves and hats and winter coats, baseball was back.

The stadium was filled with 46,145 fans, giving the Orioles their 60th straight sellout.

The place was jammed with corporate executives and politicians and workers sneaking away for a long lunch.

And it also was filled with die-hard fans and kids skipping school.

And it also was filled with die-hard fans and kids skipping school.

But for a while, the action was outside.

Vendors lined South Howard Street hawking peanuts, T-shirts, polish sausage, giant Philadelphia pretzels, and baseball caps.

Lorenzo McCant, of Northeast Baltimore, set up his gas grill at the corner of Camden and South Howard streets. Flanked by cases of soda and coolers of hot dogs and polish sausage, he was wearing dress pants, wing tip shoes, white shirt and black tie.

"I dress this way when I go to church," he said, explaining that he feels better about himself when he's dressed well -- even if he's cooking hot dogs.

Mr. McCant is an MTA bus driver by night, a hot dog vendor by day to help support his wife and four children.

When does he sleep?

"Who knows," he said, as he quickly squirted mustard on a hot dog for a customer hurrying into the stadium.

On the next block, Ester Engel of Beltsville was having trouble selling baseball caps along South Howard Street.

"It's hard," she said.

Other vendors heard her prices, then undercut her by selling hats at a cheaper price.

"It's really cut-throat," she said.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson also had a tough sell, demonstrating against the lack of minority participation at the highest level of Major League Baseball.

More than 200 protesters gathered at 11 a.m. at two opposite ends of the stadium, carrying signs that read "End Racism and Sexism," "We Want an Affirmative Action Plan," and "Knock Baseball Out of the Ballpark."

Most fans ignored the protest. But a few shouted obscenities.

One protester, Sam Holmes of Baltimore, who was not part of the Rainbow Coalition, wore a sign that said, "I am a man. Racism is foul play."

"I'm protesting exclusion on all levels, not just baseball," said Mr. Holmes, who was celebrating his birthday by coming down to the stadium protest.

When the game began, the protest ended and the Rev. Jackson, his voice hoarse, pronounced the "informational picket" a success.

"The fundamental issue is not baseball in Baltimore," he said. "It's affirmative action."

But for most, this was a day of celebration.

The president, who became a commuter for a day when he took a MARC train to the ballpark, wore an Orioles warmup jacket, toured the home clubhouse and then made his way to the field to watch the Rangers take batting practice.

Two days ago, he held a summit meeting with Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin. Yesterday, he met Rangers outfielder Jose Canseco.

"Opening Day is a way for every American to recover his childhood," the president said later while announcing a half-inning on the Orioles' television network. "You've given me back mine."

Apparently, the left-handed rookie from Little Rock, Ark., wasn't much of a pitcher as a child. His ceremonial first pitch floated high.

"I tell you what, you can't downgrade the president," said Orioles catcher Chris Hoiles. "President Bush threw it in the dirt last year. President Clinton threw the ball higher, so at least it was catchable. If I had to vote, I'd give the nod to Clinton."

Then it was time for baseball, pure and simple.

There was Rick Sutcliffe on the mound. The Rangers tagging home runs.

The crowd roaring for the Ripken brothers, Cal, the symbol of the Orioles, and Bill, the ex-Oriole who now plays for Texas.

"I had jitters," Cal Ripken said. "You get that every year on Opening Day. It's tough to control your emotions. It's always different."

Last year, they opened a new park.

This year, they gave us a game, a president and a protest.

"I hope it's never a normal day," Orioles manager Johnny Oates said. "If we do think it's normal, then we're all in trouble."

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