Minor-leaguers go to bat for O's

March 01, 1995|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,Sun Staff Writer

SARASOTA, Fla. -- On the other side of the country, they are discussing tax rates and restricted free agency and revenue sharing. But the only negotiations here yesterday, in the inaugural intrasquad game of the Orioles' training camp, were between batters and pitchers.

"It was great out there," said Phil Regan, who flashed signs in an Orioles uniform for the first time since he was named manager last fall.

The participants were Double-A and Triple-A players, they played just eight innings, and no one kept score officially. Chuck Cottier's Birds beat Marv Foley's O's, 6-4, everyone agreed.

Nonetheless, this was something special, the first of what apparently will be weeks of intrasquad games. Yesterday, the Orioles were informed their exhibition schedule will be canceled because of the team's refusal to play in replacement games.

For months, baseball has been Donald Fehr, Bud Selig and streams of rhetoric. At the Buck O'Neil Baseball Complex yesterday, baseball was back in its usual form. Bats. Glove. Slightly smudged balls. Dirt and grass.

"It's been a long wait for this," said Orioles general manager Roland Hemond, who had watched exactly one baseball game since last September.

"It was nice to finally square off," said pitching coach Mike Flanagan. "A couple of bad umpires walk out, you play, just like the old days."

There were few witnesses. There were seven fans in attendance when right-hander John DeSilva threw the first pitch, although that number dropped to six when a little girl slid between the planks of the wooden bleachers, in search of a sandpile.

Spiro Alafassos, the Orioles' assistant director of public relations, greeted each fan with a lineup sheet and roster, required reading for a game between minor-leaguers.

By game's end, around 40 fans gathered in the stands or stood at the screen behind home plate, protected from the sun somewhat by a cloudy sky. It would've been more like a high school or American Legion game, except that no one cheered with the exception of the coaches. (Just for the record, no one booed the ballplayers, either.)

Regan treated the exercise seriously, giving signs for both teams. "We thought about letting Chuck and Marv manage," Regan said, "but then we decided this would give me and Steve [Boros, the third base coach] a chance to work together."

The players whizzed through the first 2 1/2 innings in about 35 minutes, scoreless and without incident. But center fielder Roy Hodge, who played at Class A Frederick last year, tripled to open the third and scored on a fly ball by Harry Berrios and both teams seemed to pick up the intensity.

Foley's O's came back in the sixth with four runs and led by two. But in the bottom of the seventh, Cottier's Birds loaded the bases with one out and it became very real, Frederick closer Chris Lemp trying to finish off the inning. Hodge, however, looped a single over second and two runs scored and Cottier and coach Denny Walling began riding Foley and Elrod Hendricks on the other side of the field. Berrios singled in the winning run.

"We got some things done out there," said Regan, mentioning some plays he had implemented, "and I think for the first day, our fundamentals were pretty good."

The minor-leaguers nailed one fundamental perfectly: They were on the field, playing baseball.

NO O'S EXHIBITIONS

The 11 teams on the Orioles' Grapefruit League schedule informed general manager Roland Hemond via fax yesterday that they were canceling the exhibitions because of owner Peter Angelos' stance against the use of replacement players.

(Article, 7C)

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