Little big fan misses his friends, the O's

September 01, 1994|By Kelly A. J. Powers | Kelly A. J. Powers,Special to The Sun

There is no bigger little fan in Baltimore than Michael Broache. Each March, this 9-year-old skips a week of school and heads to the Orioles spring training camp in Florida, where he sits next to Frank Robinson and talks baseball.

Almost every summer night, Michael is on, or at, a baseball field. After playing a Little League game, he'd go to a game at Camden Yards. During these Oriole home games, players would shout hello to him from the dugout. When the Orioles were on the road, he'd often go along. The Orioles Bird was the hit of Michael's birthday party. Michael attended every Orioles event -- every black-tie ball, every baseball clinic, every auction.

Baseball is his life; Michael plans on having a career as an Orioles catcher.

Except . . . there's no baseball anymore. The Little League season is over. And the Orioles are on strike with the rest of major league baseball.

What do you do when you're only 9, a huge fan, and your stadium is empty?

For one thing, don't turn in your tickets. Michael and his dad, also named Michael, are so far refusing to cash in their tickets. "I'm hoping they will come back," says little Michael, standing in his dining room/baseball memorabilia room. "But I'm also thinking it's not going to happen."

Michael should know; he often gets the inside word from players and management. In July, he asked player Mike Horn if there would be a strike. "Definitely!" was the answer. Now it's crisis time in the Broache household: no baseball games to watch, none to play.

Luckily, there's always minor league baseball. The Broaches have season tickets to the Frederick Keys.

For Michael, however, nothing comes close to the thrill of big-time, major league baseball. So, while the strike wears on, Michael is keeping his eye on the ball -- hundreds of them, lining the walls of what used to be the family dining room (along with commemorative bats, jerseys, batting gloves or baseball cards). Among his most precious baseballs is one signed by the entire team of the 1992 Orioles. Michael got this ball during spring training when Cal Ripken Sr. gave him a personal tour of the locker room.

To the Broaches, their son's success as the Orioles biggest little fan sometimes stuns them.

"It freaked me out to see my son sitting with Frank Robinson at spring training," says Mr. Broache, a certified public accountant with BGE. "[Frank] is not someone who talks to anyone at spring training, because everybody wants something from him. But he seeks out Mike and sits with him, and they talk. I grew up with Frank Robinson as my hero, so to see my son conferring with him . . . "

Michael says he appreciates how hard the players work, so he supports them during this strike. "I don't think there should be a salary cap." But he also understands the management side. "I don't understand why players want minimum starting salaries."

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