Silver Bullets take swing into Maryland on tour

June 17, 1994|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Sun Staff Writer

FREDERICK -- When K.C. Clark hustled around the bases yesterday after taking a turn in the batting cage, the scene could have been lifted from any other baseball practice.

Except for the blond ponytail flapping beneath her helmet.

These weren't the boys of summer working out at Harry Grove Stadium, though a couple of hairstyles were about all that gave them away. The shortstop snags a bouncer up the middle and flips to second for an imaginary force. Another player races out to shallow center field to make a catch. Line drives are sprayed in all directions.

The Colorado Silver Bullets, the first all-female baseball club to play against professional men's teams, have brought their barnstorming tour to Maryland, with stops tonight in Frederick and tomorrow in Bowie.

The Silver Bullets, managed by former major-league pitcher Phil Niekro, will take on the 30-and-over Rock Creek Raven Amateurs at 5:30 p.m., before the Frederick Keys' game against the Kinston Indians. And at 6 p.m. tomorrow, they will face Corrigan Insurance at newly opened Prince George's County Stadium, before the Bowie Baysox's game with the Binghamton Mets. Sellouts are expected at both sites.

Corrigan (formerly Johnny's) is the defending 20-and-under All-American Amateur Baseball Association national champion and winner of 39 straight Baltimore City titles.

It's just another in a series of challenges for the Coors-sponsored Silver Bullets (1-13), who started out May 8 with a 19-0 loss to the Northern League All-Stars. They have improved steadily since then, losing five of their past seven games by one run.

One reason is a downgrading of competition. The Silver Bullets are affiliated with the Northern League, but decided after that initial, error-filled game to avoid playing against the Double-A and Triple-A talent found at that level. Their only victory came on May 27 against an over-30 team in St. Paul, Minn. They will take their chances later this summer against entries like the Thunder Bay Whiskey Jacks, the Burlington Bees and the Kelowna Grizzlies as part of a 44-game schedule.

"It's going to take them awhile to learn this game," said Niekro, the 14th winningest pitcher in major-league history who spent much of yesterday's workout hitting fungoes and mopping the sweat from his face. "They want to be real good, real quick. They're going through a big mental adjustment and a big physical adjustment."

While most of the players had to get accustomed to competing against men, first baseman Julie Croteau, 23, is a veteran of such encounters. After waging an unsuccessful battle in court to play on her Virginia high school squad, she became the first woman to join a men's college team at Division III St. Mary's College.

"No one wants to lose to us, but for the most part, the teams have been very sportsmanlike. Anyone who comes to see us play respects what we do," she said.

"People who have never seen them play are amazed," said general manager Shereen Samonds. "They really can play. And none of us would be here if this wasn't about baseball."

When the players gathered early in spring training, they were told to be patient and flexible, two traits that came in handy Wednesday as they endured a lengthy ordeal getting to their hotel in Bowie. They were delayed for 45 minutes in Atlanta, the bus that was supposed to transport them from BWI Airport never showed up, and the replacement driver got lost trying to find the hotel.

In all, it took almost five hours to go from Linthicum to their hotel. "I don't think 20 guys could have handled it as well as they did," Niekro said.

Just about everyone associated with the team has a horror story about the daily travel, the only downside to an experience many of them have called "the dream of a lifetime."

"We're going from place to place and don't ever have a homestand," said Shae Sloan, 22, tonight's starting pitcher who made her first appearance on the mound last month in front of 20,000 spectators at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

"We'll be here for four days and that's like heaven," she said. "You can halfway unpack your suitcase. You forget what day it is and what city you're in. You just go where they tell you to go and be happy that you're there."

The Silver Bullets leave Sunday for Hickory, N.C. They will make stops in major-league ballparks in San Diego, Oakland, Denver and Detroit, and later will visit Hawaii and Japan.

NOTE: The team will conduct an open tryout for women 21 years and older tomorrow at Prince George's County Stadium. Registration is 9 a.m.

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