Reynolds rides second wind to earn Orioles wings

July 25, 1993|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Staff Writer

Harold Reynolds has spent a good part of the past 10 years trying to make people happy, on the field and off.

BBut in his first month with the Orioles, after 10 seasons with the Seattle Mariners that included three All-Star Game appearances and the 1991 Roberto Clemente Award for community involvement, Reynolds wasn't making anyone happy, least of all himself.

Reynolds, the new Orioles second baseman, did little during April to make Baltimoreans forget cult hero Bill Ripken, the former Orioles second baseman, batting .146, with six hits in his first 41 at-bats.

So when Orioles general manager Roland Hemond and assistant general manager Frank Robinson asked him to stop by for a talk at a Chicago hotel on April 25, Reynolds figured he was in for a long, unpleasant evening.

"You never know what other people are thinking," Reynolds said. "It always seems like they are in a position to make decisions that affect you directly, and when they called me in and said, 'We want to meet with you,' it was like, 'Oh, man, what did I do now?' "

To Reynolds' surprise and relief, the talk wasn't about what he had done, but what Hemond and Robinson knew he could do.

"We felt that he was trying to carry too much of a burden," Hemond said.

"We just told him, 'You just have to enjoy this and just be the player we know you are.' We weren't trying to compare him with anybody but Harold Reynolds."

The next night, Reynolds started a 10-game hitting streak.

"I had never in my career had people from the front office, you know, general managers, call me and say, 'Look, get back to playing your game. Play your game and have fun doing it,' " Reynolds said. "I walked out of there, and instead of being chastised and thinking I was going to be beat up, it was like, 'Wow, this is awesome.' "

The world is truly an awesome place for Reynolds, who signed a one-year, $1.65 million contract with the Orioles last December.

Reynolds has bounced back from the doldrums of April. He's batting .265, five points above his career average.

Reynolds also had a 15-game hitting streak in late June and early July and has hit .283 since his 6-for-41 start in April.

When Brady Anderson went on the disabled list with chickenpox, Reynolds moved to leadoff and reached base in 20 of 21 games.

And Reynolds, who has won three Gold Gloves, has contributed solid defense, committing just seven errors. At that pace, Reynolds would end the season with 12 errors, which would match the career low he set last season. It would also equal the number of errors all Orioles second basemen made in '92.

Reynolds has more errors this season than Bill Ripken had last season (4), but he has more hits (83) and runs (39) in 92 games and 313 at-bats than Ripken had in 111 games for the Orioles (76 hits, 35 runs).

The specter of Bill Ripken, released by the Orioles the day Reynolds signed, Dec. 11, 1992, was one of the many things with which Reynolds had to contend in April.

"I really put a lot of that extra pressure on myself coming into a situation with Billy being gone, a new ballclub and trying to impress my new teammates," Reynolds said. "I was making mental mistakes. I covered a base on a 3-2 count with two out in Chicago one day, and Ellis Burks hit the ball right where I was standing and I was covering the base. It was things like that."

Perhaps the teammate Reynolds tried the hardest to impress was Cal Ripken, brother of the man he replaced.

"When you get to this level, it's important for you to know even the smallest little things that would help you turn a double play," Cal Ripken said.

"As the season progressed, our communication has gotten better on certain things," Ripken said. "There's no real set amount of time for someone to learn someone, but now I feel a whole lot better with Harold, and I'm sure Harold feels a whole lot better with me."

Just as important as the physical compatibility is the relationship, and both say that test has been passed.

"I'm on the record as saying I don't quite understand a lot of the things that are done, and it's not my job to understand all those kinds of things," Ripken said.

"Once the decision is made, you've got to go out there and play. These are your new teammates, and you go out and do the best you can to try and get familiar so you can win games."

Said Reynolds: "He [Cal] was always pretty cool with me. He understood it was a professional move. But, obviously, he was hurt, I think, by it. It's taken him awhile to get over it, but there's nothing personal between Harold Reynolds and Cal Ripken."

The next challenge

With that hurdle overcome, Reynolds set out about the business of proving the Mariners wrong for allowing him to leave for Baltimore.

Reynolds, a native of Corvallis, Ore., a few hours' drive from Seattle, had been an integral part of the Mariners organization since he came up for good in 1986.

He hit .275, .283 and .300 in his first three full seasons, made the All-Star Game in 1987 and 1988, and led the American League in steals with 60 in 1987.

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