Win or lose, O's always in basement of Harford fan

April 02, 1994|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,Sun Staff Writer

As the Orioles prepare to open the 1994 baseball season downtown Monday, a Harford County man is putting the finishing touches on Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Havre de Grace.

Aaron Thompson has built his own "Field of Dreams" in his basement, turning it into a scaled-down replica of the Orioles' ballpark.

There's a 3-foot scoreboard, an entire wall with the B&O Warehouse, a three-dimensional Baltimore Sun clock, the Jumbotron screen (actually Mr. Thompson's 25-inch TV) and 2-inch painted Orioles fans (most of whom sit under a built-in bar).

The infield spreads across a huge coffee table that Mr. Thompson designed, and the outfield, not surprisingly, is a plush emerald rug.

"I vacuum the carpet so it looks like it's been just mowed," says Mr. Thompson, as he demonstrates.

The only things missing are tiny Orioles players, but they're represented in other ways on two walls behind the home-plate coffee table.

There are photos and all kinds of memorabilia -- from a baseball signed by the world champion 1966 O's to a photo of a window broken by Mets player Bobby Bonilla during last year's All-Star home-run hitting derby at Oriole Park.

Mr. Thompson is particularly proud of one poster that reminds him of his first visit to the ballpark. "I went to the second game ever [at Camden Yards] and the first night game," he says.

The 26-year-old high school teacher, who grew up in Massachusetts, hasn't always been an Orioles fan, though. "My first love was the Red Sox," he admits.

But soon after Mr. Thompson came to Maryland in 1990 with his wife, Katie, he became enamored with the local team. "The coverage is so great, you can't help but follow the Orioles," he says.

It may have been his first year here, when he lived two blocks from the unfinished ballpark, that the groundwork was laid for his future basement, he says. "I watched Camden Yards being built, girder by girder."

After Mr. Thompson moved to Harford County two years ago, the baseball idea got another nudge.

It wasn't as dramatic as the 1989 "Field of Dreams" movie, where a voice urged Kevin Costner to build a baseball field. Instead, Mr. Thompson saw a television commercial about painting a baseball diamond on a floor for a baby's nursery, one he embellished on.

"This is much more extensive," says the Havre de Grace High math teacher, who also majored in studio art in college, as he talks about Sheetrock, framing and foamcore.

His educational background, plus a transitional stint as a carpenter's helper, prepared him for the eight-month project, which was completed in early February.

"Thank goodness for all those snow days," says Mr. Thompson, referring to Harford County's 15 school closings this year. The unplanned holidays allowed him to spend several 10-hour days transforming his cinder-block, unfinished basement into the miniature stadium.

"I've always been a project kind of person," Mr. Thompson says. "If my mother would have let me do this, I would have done it earlier."

While Mr. Thompson says he had to gradually introduce the grand slam decorating idea to his wife, it's one she likes. "Of course, she has free rein in the rest of the house," he says diplomatically.

To celebrate the clubroom's completion, the Thompsons are holding their own Opening Day festivities Monday. .

Certain to be among the mix of friends and neighbors is Hank, the Thompsons' 14-month-old yellow Labrador. In fact, Hank sleeps in a tiny reproduction of Baltimore's Eutaw Street, just beyond the stadium scoreboard.

And if visitors find that the room looks a lot like Oriole Park during its first season in 1992, it's meant to. Mr. Thompson used a pull-out color spread from a baseball program as his guide for duplicating the park, from beer advertisements to blue skies.

There's even an airplane suspended from the ceiling that has a banner trailing behind it saying "How bout dem O's, Hon."

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