Sheets takes long road to visit Camden Yards Ex-Oriole hopes to revive career

September 07, 1993|By Ken Rosenthal | Ken Rosenthal,Staff Writer

Now batting for the Seattle Mariners . . . Larry Sheets?

Surprise, surprise, it happened last night at Camden Yards.

"I thought I'd never be in this park," Sheets said. "I told myself, 'If I never play there, I could never go there.' "

So, how did he get here?

It's a long story.

The Orioles traded Sheets to the Detroit Tigers for Mike Brumley on Jan. 10, 1990. Sheets spent the 1990 season there, sat out all of 1991, then played in Japan in 1992.

He signed a Triple-A contract with Milwaukee last winter, eager to return to the majors. It didn't happen, however, until the Brewers traded him to Seattle on Thursday for a player to be named.

Sheets, 33, joked before the game that his age was nearly as high as his number (40). But clearly, he was excited to return to Baltimore, where he still makes his off-season home.

"To me, once Memorial Stadium was gone, I felt I had no more ties with the Orioles," Sheets said. "This was a dream and a goal, to make it here and play."

Still, Sheets wasn't sure how he'd be received by the Baltimore fans, not after the way he was booed in his final season with the Orioles in 1989.

Sheets batted .316 with 31 homers and 94 RBI for the Orioles in 1987, but slumped the next two seasons, hitting a combined .235 with only 17 homers and 80 RBI.

Before the game, a reporter told him the reaction probably would be positive. Sheets just smiled. "You think?" he said. "I don't know."

The crowd gave Sheets a smattering of applause, and that probably was the highlight of his frustrating season. The Brewers never promoted him, even though he batted .280 with 18 homers and 98 RBI for Triple-A New Orleans.

"I got off to a slow start. They got off to a slow start," Sheets said. "They got themselves buried in a deep hole, and they weren't willing to let an older guy come help dig them out.

"When you're going through that, you say, 'Why?' I stunk at the beginning. I was bad. But when I came around, I thought I'd have the opportunity to come up. They said no."

Instead, the Brewers traded him to Seattle, where he now wants to stay. If it doesn't work out, he would consider returning to Japan, where he batted .308 with 26 homers and 100 RBI last season.

"This is an opportunity," said Sheets, who went 1-for-4 last night. "I went to Japan so I might have this opportunity, an opportunity to play in the big leagues.

"There's a possibility here. If I play well."

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