O's Reynolds returns home, free Ex-Seattle star content to be just a visitor now

April 09, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

The Seattle Mariners will honor Harold Reynolds tonight. They will reintroduce him to the Kingdome crowd during pre-game ceremonies and, no doubt, offer some token of appreciation for the 12 years he spent in the organization.

It is unclear whether it will play out as a homecoming or a final farewell, but it doesn't seem to matter to the man of the moment. Reynolds has said his goodbyes, and he has found a new home.

"I'd just as soon sneak into town and sneak back out with three wins," he said, referring to the three-game series between the Orioles and Mariners that begins tonight in Seattle. "When I left, I left everything behind."

He needed to get out of Seattle. He needed to get out of a bad competitive environment. He needed to get out from under a pile of obligations that was threatening to consume every minute of his free time. In short, he needed to get a life.

No wonder he packed up and moved to Baltimore within days of signing a one-year contract with the Orioles last December.

"When you're in that situation, you don't even realize it, but I needed a change," Reynolds said. "I was just real stagnant. I became so inundated with everything around me, I didn't even realize that I didn't have any freedom anymore."

The phone never stopped ringing. If he wasn't involved in some aspect of his Harold Reynolds Youth Foundation, he was doing something for the Mariners' community relations department. If he wasn't at the ballpark, he was somewhere doing something for somebody. In Baltimore, he is picking his spots.

The Super Bowl party he threw for 1,000 teen-agers in January served notice that his priorities haven't changed, but Reynolds is setting aside a little more time for himself now. He hopes that will help him bounce back from a 1992 season in which his playing time and productivity dropped significantly.

He is a two-time All-Star who averaged 159 games from 1987 to 1991. He won a stolen-base title in his first full season in the major leagues. A switch-hitter, he batted .300 in 1989 and scored 100 runs the following season. Each season, the off-field demands increased. Last year, his on-field performance declined. Reynolds can't help but wonder if there was a connection.

"I think I've learned not to get involved in as many things here," he said. "I'm still going to do a lot of things, but, in Seattle, so much was going on, I wasn't as focused [on baseball]. I had too many demands. I'm a lot more focused this year."

He chose the right team. The community involvement is spread around the clubhouse in Baltimore. Cal Ripken has his learning center. Glenn Davis has his home for neglected and abused boys. Rick Sutcliffe spends countless hours visiting sick kids. Mike Devereaux is in the process of setting up two local foundations to promote youth baseball in underprivileged areas.

"I'm willing to bet there is no other team -- as a unit -- that is more community-minded, both financially and time-wise," said manager Johnny Oates. "A lot of people give money, but these guys give of themselves. They don't just give up the bucks, they like being out there with people."

Reynolds, 28, fit right in when he was signed as a free agent in December. He already may be the most decorated professional athlete in the annals of community service. He has received the Roberto Clemente Award (as have Ripken and Sutcliffe), the Martin Luther King Humanitarian Award and, in 1990, became the first athlete honored with President Bush's 195th Daily Point of Light Award.

But that's not why he's here. Reynolds was acquired by the Orioles to solidify and diversify the starting lineup. His tremendous contributions off the field were only a bonus.

"That's a big plus, but it didn't really come into the decision-making process," Oates said. "I think that sometimes the other side of that comes into it. If you have a report that a guy is a bad apple, you might stay away.

"You do go after certain types of people, and you stay away from peo

ple who are going to tear your club up. You've got to be awful good to be a troublemaker."

Reynolds found out the hard way that all the community service in the world won't provide job security in baseball. He learned the same lesson in Seattle that Randy Milligan learned in Baltimore. Good works are appreciated, but they are no substitute for good statistics.

His numbers slipped in 1992 -- he batted .247 -- and the Mariners went looking for a replacement. They felt they found one in rookie Bret Boone last August and made it clear to Reynolds that he would not be welcomed back this year, but that decision may have backfired.

Boone, a promising infield prospect who has spent less than three seasons in professional baseball, was optioned out at the end of spring training. The Mariners are going instead with minor-league journeyman Rich Amaral, who is nearly three years older than Reynolds. Figure that out.

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