Klingenbeck revels in unexpected call

June 03, 1994|By KEN ROSENTHAL

They were waiting in the parking lot, Scott Klingenbeck's father and two older brothers. They had driven all night from Cincinnati, driven from 2 a.m. to 11 a.m., nine hours to the field of dreams, nine hours to Camden Yards.

They were all beaming now, the Klingenbecks, Orioles general manager Roland Hemond and assistant GM Doug Melvin. The late afternoon sunshine was brilliant. Larry Klingenbeck's smile was even brighter.

"Nice game, buddy," Larry told his son.

Two years ago to the day, the Orioles had made Scott Klingenbeck their fifth-round draft pick out of Ohio State. Now, after the wildest, most memorable 24 hours of his life, the 23-year-old right-hander had beaten the Detroit Tigers, 11-5.

In the parking lot, Scott proudly showed his brothers his most treasured souvenir, the lineup card signed by Sparky Anderson, the manager he grew up watching with the Big Red Machine.

His father stood with Hemond and Melvin, relating his excitement when Scott called with the big news, the news that every baseball father wants to hear, the news that his son is going to The Show.

"I thought I was Harry Caray," Larry Klingenbeck said. "Holy Cow! Holy Cow!"

At 6:50 p.m. on Wednesday, Scott was lying on the trainer's table at the University of Maryland, sick to his stomach. Melvin was hiding out like a CIA operative in the Double-A Bowie bullpen, waiting to anoint him as the Orioles' newest starting pitcher.

Klingenbeck was supposed to chart pitches that night. Melvin asked Bowie manager Pete Mackanin and pitching coach John O'Donoghue to sit in on the meeting. The entire organization shares the thrill when a player from the farm system gets the call.

Of course, Klingenbeck didn't believe it.

"I think he thought he was going to [Triple-A] Rochester," Melvin said. "I said, 'I need you to drift out of here, Scott -- you're going to pitch in Camden Yards tomorrow.' He said, 'You've got to be kidding. This is a joke.' "

Klingenbeck didn't even know the Orioles needed a replacement for Ben McDonald. He said he normally shakes when he pitches, but he wasn't shaking as Melvin spoke -- a sure sign that he was nervous, oddly enough.

His stomach virus?

"It got cured real quick," he said.

He hadn't pitched above Single-A until April. His most recent loss was to the Tigers' Double-A Trenton affiliate. And now the Orioles were asking him to face Cecil Fielder and Co., in a game they badly needed to win, before a packed house, on three days' rest.

Melvin swore Klingenbeck to secrecy -- the Orioles wouldn't be announcing his promotion until after their game. Thus, Klingenbeck could tell his family in Cincinnati, but not his roommates with Bowie -- Jimmy Haynes, Rick Forney and Brian Sackinsky, who along with Vaughn Eshelman form the Fab Five rotation at Double-A.

Klingenbeck called about 20 people, then went to the local Chili's to watch his next opponent on TV.

Not the Portland Sea Dogs.

The Detroit Tigers.

"The lady said, 'We can't get HTS,' " Klingenbeck said. "My apartment didn't have it. We only had some $20 plan. The lady said the satellite wasn't working. I said, 'I have to watch at least a couple of innings.' She finally tuned it in.

"She started asking questions. I told her I was pitching tomorrow, and I'm young. She kind of looked at me like, 'Whatever.' Actually, she might believe it now."

Klingenbeck said he slept only an hour -- he watched an early-morning police bust outside his Annapolis apartment to help pass the time. At Melvin's instruction, he left for the ballpark early, and proceeded to get lost. "I almost went over the Bay Bridge," he said. "But I turned around."

He arrived around 9:45 a.m., nearly three hours before game time. No one in the clubhouse recognized him. Johnny Oates thought he might be one of the attendants picking up laundry. Reliever Jim Poole said, "He went to the locker, and he had the balls in the locker. I figured he was the pitcher."

For Klingenbeck, the day was already a triumph -- he was inside the park. "I was afraid the security guard wouldn't let me park in the parking lot, but he let me drive right in," he said. "I guess they knew someone unusual was going to come in and say he was pitching today."

But now he had to wait.

"He didn't quite know what to do with himself," pitching coach Dick Bosman recalled, chuckling. Bosman told Klingenbeck he was heading to the bullpen for workouts with Mike Oquist and Ben McDonald. What else could the kid do? He dutifully tagged along.

He later returned to the clubhouse with Oquist. Bosman checked on him at 12:05, 30 minutes before he was to throw the first pitch.

Klingenbeck still wasn't in uniform.

"I said, 'Do you think we ought to get ready to go now?" Bosman said. "He said, 'Well, I guess so.'"

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