As always, Hulett has plenty in reserve

May 30, 1994|By KEN ROSENTHAL

CHICAGO -- No team hotel for the Huletts in Chicago -- too confining. Linda and the three boys stay with Tim at the "Holidome," a hotel in Rolling Meadows, Ill. There's an indoor pool, an indoor basketball court, shuffleboard, tennis, the works.

Tim's parents, Harold and Judy, also made the three-hour trip from Springfield, Ill., this weekend, but they couldn't stay for yesterday's game. Usually, that would be no big deal, for Tim plays once in a lunar equinox. But this time . . .

Let's just hope Harold and Judy found a TV at their grandson's graduation. It isn't every day Tim goes 2-for-3 with two walks. Hits a two-run triple over the center fielder's head. Fights off a bad hop and starts a pivotal double play.

Harold and Judy's son did all of these things in the Orioles' 8-4 victory over Chicago yesterday, and if manager Johnny Oates is smart, he'll keep Mark McLemore in right field and stick with Hulett at second until Jeffrey Hammonds returns.

Jack Voigt has 14 RBIs in 95 at-bats, but he's not an everyday player. Hulett deserves more of a chance, not that he'd ever ask for it. He has hit safely in each of his nine starts (11-for-29, .379). In his six-year Orioles career, he has batted .312 with men in scoring position.

Oates started him yesterday because he was 9-for-22 off Jack McDowell. Hulett responded by drawing the first walk off McDowell in 20 1/3 innings, hitting a leadoff single to spark a two-run rally in the fifth, then lining an eighth-inning triple off Kirk McCaskill to give the Orioles a 5-1 lead.

When was his last triple?

"I probably had one last year," Hulett said.

Well, almost -- Sept. 13, 1992.

"Ah, I was trying to pad my doubles total by stopping at second base," Hulett said.

In a sense, Hulett was fortunate -- McCaskill threw him a belt-high fastball on 0-and-2, and center fielder Darrin Jackson misjudged the ball. But as so often happens in this game, things even out. Hulett wasn't exactly lucky when Julio Franco's double-play grounder nearly hit him in the face moments later.

The Orioles led 5-3 in the eighth, and the White Sox had men on first and second with none out and the league's second-leading RBI man at bat. If Hulett flubs the play, it's a different game. But he reacted alertly, making the double play look almost routine. "A great play," reliever Alan Mills said.

Of course, his parents missed it and, as it turned out, so did Linda and the boys. Tim said they started the drive home to Springfield after his triple. It had been a busy weekend. Hulett had seen his family only one day since the season started -- on the way home from a West Coast trip.

This is the most difficult time of year for the Huletts -- because of Little League commitments, Linda keeps the boys in Springfield until July. The separation is bad enough. "With the whole situation," Tim said, "it just makes it tougher."

The boys -- Tug, 11, Joe, 10 and Jeff, 6 -- looked happy as can be before yesterday's game, watching television with coach Don Buford, drinking cans of soda, munching sunflower seeds. "Moe, Larry and Curly," Mike Mussina said, smiling.

But no Sam.

It has been nearly two years since the third of the four Hulett sons was killed in an automobile accident, and it's impossible to watch the others frolic without thinking about the 6-year-old who was lost. Tug, Joe and Jeff make themselves right at home in the clubhouse. The players love them.

"I took to them when I first met them," Ben McDonald said. "They're kids like I am, I guess. I enjoy hanging out with 'em, nTC playing wiffle ball with 'em -- and we've got the same type of haircut, so there's something in common.

"They're good ballplayers, too," McDonald continued. "You should see them hit. Tim throws to 'em in spring training, and they knock the heck out of it. The little one, he'll be the meanest of any of 'em. He's something else."

Hulett shakes his head, knowing McDonald is his boys' favorite. "They enjoy Ben because he toys with them," he said. "I don't know if my wife enjoys Ben so much when they take his gags home."

Heaven knows what mischief Linda encountered on the trip back to Springfield, but at least it was a happy ride. Harold and Judy? Tim figured they caught the game on TV. Oates informed him Saturday that he'd be playing, and Tim passed it along.

"I don't get that many chances, and they're really proud parents, typical of baseball parents," Hulett said. "I know they would have enjoyed this."

Rare start.

Rare family.

Rare man.

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