Ojeda makes return to mound for Indians

August 08, 1993|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

Bob Ojeda made what might have been the biggest comeback of the year last night.

When he walked out of the bullpen and onto the field at Camden Yards, few could appreciate the emotional impact of the moment. The only survivor of a spring training boating accident that claimed the lives of Steve Olin and Tim Crews, his teammates and friends, Ojeda was a man with a mission.

His pitching line was as unspectacular as it was unimportant -- two innings, four hits, two runs, one earned. What counted was that his first game with the Indians was behind him.

"The one thing was. . .," Ojeda said after the game. He paused, looked at Indians general manager John Hart and couldn't continue.

Looking around the room, Ojeda asked no one in particular: "Say something funny"

It was hard to tell what was more difficult for Ojeda -- pitching in his first game since the accident, or talking about it. "That one," he said in a halting voice, "was for the guys.

"It was hard coming through that gate and going onto the field. It was tough. But I did it and hopefully it'll get easier as it goes along."

It was 4 1/2 months ago, March 22, that Ojeda lost his two friends, and nearly his own life. What was supposed to be an evening fishing excursion on the only day off during spring training

became a tragedy that left indelible scars.

In the months that followed, Ojeda wrestled with his emotions, sometimes isolating himself from family and friends. He didn't know if he would be able to pitch again, or if he wanted to.

Encouraged by Patti Olin and Laurie Crews, the widows of his former teammates -- "They said they would kick my butt if I didn't come back" -- Ojeda embarked on an arduous physical and mental rehabilitation program.

He underwent arthroscopic surgery in April to repair a shoulder that had been injured before the accident. And, when his physical recovery was almost complete, he spent a week in Baltimore undergoing psychiatric treatment to help him deal with the emotional stress.

Ojeda came into last night's game at the start of the fourth inning.

The 46,424 spectators greeted him with a sustained standing ovation. He acknowledged the crowd by waving his glove over his head -- and then went to work.

"The people were great," Ojeda said. "I couldn't really pay attention because I would have lost it out there. But I really appreciate it from the people of Baltimore."

His long day over, Ojeda headed back to hotel. The first day of his comeback was not yet complete.

He had a couple of phone calls to make -- to Laurie Crews and Patti Olin.

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