Oquist is just the man to keep team piping hot


June 29, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

CLEVELAND -- Nothing stings worse than an unexpected cold shower after a sweaty workout, which, of course, is one more reason the Orioles are grateful right-hander Mike Oquist pitched his way onto the roster this season.

With Oquist on board, the Orioles won't have to worry about such inconveniences. Just ask his former Rochester Red Wings teammates.

The Triple-A Red Wings, playing in Ottawa in April, discovered nothing but cold water coming out of the showers. Oquist, perhaps fearing a malodorous bus ride, jumped to the rescue and quickly remedied the problem.

"That was nothing, really," Oquist said. "In the clubhouse in Ottawa they don't have valves to control the temperature of the water, but they do have a mixing valve on the wall. I just adjusted that."

Mixing valve? Sounds like your friendly neighborhood plumber, which is precisely what he is when he is not pitching in the big leagues.

Oquist spent his formative years working at the family plumbing store in La Junta, Colo., after school and during the summer.

During every off-season of his baseball career, Oquist has worked with his mother, Ethel, and his older brothers Don and Rob in the plumbing business started by their late father, Dean.

Where will Oquist, wife Lindi and son Braxton head if the players strike later this summer?

"We'll probably head back there and I'll go to work with my brothers," Oquist said. "You have to bring in the money somewhere, and I won't be making it here if there's a strike."

A few pointers from the rookie right-hander, whose favorite all-time backup catcher was Bill Plummer: "The threads of the handle to a stool tank are backward, and people generally don't know that. We run into quite a few people who break the tanks as a result. When you think you are loosening it, you are actually tightening it. If you tighten it too hard, it cracks the tank. "I don't know why the threads are backward -- you don't run into many things with threads like that -- but they are."

Perhaps they are designed that way to create more demand for the tanks. Such cynical thinking isn't fair, Oquist points out.

Give plumbers a break, he pleads.

"The most common complaint is when a sewer backs up again three or four months after we rod it," Oquist said. "But that's something you can't see. You can't see the tree roots and they are the main things that make them back up."

As for those products that supposedly can unclog drains, proceed with caution.

"The problem with them is if they don't work, they get stuck in the line and it's tough to work with them," he said. "You have to be careful what you get it on. It can eat up the cable we use. If it's real bad, we have to tell people to let it sit for a while."

Oh, the perils of plumbing.

Oquist has been called to basements flooded with several feet of sewage.

Then there are the broken water pipes that leave him working in the mud.

But not all of the calls are so complicated, so messy.

"We get a a lot of calls from older people who have a faucet that's dripping and they just aren't strong enough to turn the handle," Oquist said. "We don't charge them for that."

Overall, Oquist prefers pitching to plumbing but has few complaints about either profession.

"It's intersting work," he said of the plumbing. "The best part about it is you get to meet everybody in your hometown and it's a real friendly town."

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