For openers, fans point to playoffs OPENING DAY '94

April 05, 1994|By Gary Lambrecht and Kent Baker | Gary Lambrecht and Kent Baker,Sun Staff Writers

Expectations typically run high on Opening Day. Yesterday, as fans streamed into Camden Yards, they talked of a new lineup, a new owner and a new face on a team that finally looks like a contender in April.

Chuck Nicely, a 39-year-old supervisor at General Motors, envisions the Orioles in the playoffs, and he credited new majority owner Peter Angelos with a major assist.

"It's been a long time since we felt like we have a playoff team," said Nicely, who lives in Baltimore and attended his first Orioles game in 1965. "In 1989, no one expected these guys to contend. Same thing in '92. This year, you look at the team on paper, and the pieces to the puzzle are there. I just hope he spent all of his money for a good cause. We don't need any more Glenn Davises around here.

"The thing that impresses me about Angelos is that he's not looking to win just in 1994. I think he's looking at how to win in the year 2000 as well."

Jeff Sullivan, a 16-year-old fan from Annapolis, said he expects the Orioles to win the American League East.

"If you look at Toronto last year and the lineup they had, I think our lineup exceeds that," Sullivan said. "Look at the No. 9 hitter [Jeffrey Hammonds]. He's no .211 hitter. And I think they'll have enough pitching to carry them through."

Sullivan also noted the contrast between former owner Eli Jacobs and Angelos.

"One reason I feel so confident is that from the players up to the management, everyone is dedicated to winning," Sullivan said.

Parkville resident Mike Lovejoy echoed those sentiments.

"He [Angelos] is more visible. He's on the radio all the time. He's there for the public," Lovejoy said. "This is a completely different team from the one that played when Camden Yards opened. The enthusiasm about the stadium itself has taken a back seat to the ballclub. That's nice to see."

Mark Gordon of Frederick gave some balance to the pre-game proceedings. Although Gordon is impressed with the acquisitions of Rafael Palmeiro, Chris Sabo and Lee Smith, he is not ready to stamp the Orioles as contenders just yet.

"In the beginning of the season, everybody has high expectations. But with a new group of guys like this, you can't make predictions this early," Gordon said. "It's not the parts. It's the sum of the parts that matters. Let's not get too excited until we see how well these guys play together."

Just getting in to see those guys took some doing for Mike Kaplan of Baltimore. Finding a seat with a view of the action in the standing-room-only section in left-center field isn't easy, but Kaplan solved the problem.

"It helped to bribe an usher," joked Kaplan, who managed to seat himself and co-worker Jennifer Smith on a concrete step that sits in the corner behind the railing.

"We are very fortunate," said Smith. "This is the only SRO seat there is. Over on the other side [right field], the wall is so high, short people like me can't see anything."

Kaplan said a co-worker at NASA headquarters in Washington participates in the Opening Day lottery for tickets.

"He's luckier than us until he wins," said Kaplan. "Then we send him to a meeting today."

However, it was a lucky day for Scott Fisher of Havre de Grace.

He came to Camden Yards without a ticket and was hoping to purchase an overpriced one.

"I figured it was going to cost me $75 or $100," said Fisher. "But I got into this auction and won."

In a contest sponsored by radio station WIYY-FM (98 Rock), Fisher made the guess that came closest to the location of a giveaway ticket, calling Section 374. He won a $6 seat in the upper deck of Section 370 above the left-field corner.

In the left-center-field picnic area two hours before the game, Sonny Novak had Ryan, his 3-year-old-son, astride his shoulders.

They were soaking up the sunshine after driving from Amelia Island, Fla., just for Opening Day.

"We actually have seats," said Novak, a transplanted Baltimorean who first had Ryan at the park at age 18 months. "But he might squirm too much if he sits too long. We'll go up there, maybe after the first inning."

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