Camp is picnic for fans Ravens: While the players work, those watching them in Westminster warm to sun and festive atmosphere of the NFL's return.

July 22, 1996|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Clint Acker arrived at Western Maryland College early yesterday morning only to find out that the Ravens' practice didn't start for six more hours. So Acker broke out a blanket, a book and tanned on a hill until it was time for the next workout.

"I'm originally from Ohio and I've always been a Browns fan," said Acker, 22, now of Sykesville. "I just wanted to see the players and get some autographs. I could have gone somewhere else, like the beach, today, but I think being on this campus is the place to be."

Apparently, a lot of other people felt the same way. A crowd of 3,500 crammed onto the fields at Western Maryland to watch the Ravens yesterday.

On Saturday, nearly 3,000 fans came out to watch, sweat, tan, eat, buy souvenirs and cheer Baltimore's newest pro football team.

"I've been waiting for a break in the weather to bring my son [Nicholas, 8]," said Cindy Pivar, 34, of Union Bridge. "When the Colts were here, I never got a chance to see them. I used to be a Redskins fan, but now I may have to change my loyalty. I always said if we got a football team closer to home I was going to root for them."

But there is more than just football. It's a festive atmosphere with MTA shuttles to campus, ice cream trucks, a snowball stand and food counters sponsored by a pizza chain.

Need a T-shirt? They range from $15.99 to $17.99. A hat is $2 more. Pennants cost $3.49 and buttons $1.99. Ditto for bumper stickers. Key rings cost $4.99 and seat cushions $9.99.

There was even a Scales Tales booth, sponsored by the Department of Natural Resources, which included turtles, a milk snake, a hog nose snake and of course, a raven. A real one.

"This isn't just football; it's entertainment and family day all wrapped up in one," said Jay Smothers, 26, of Reisterstown. "If this is what NFL football is all about, we've been missing a lot over the years."

Joanne Tart, 42, and her son David packed themselves and a picnic basket in a car with their Eldersburg neighbors, the Stevenses. The menu consisted of chicken, potato and macaroni salad, steamed shrimp, lemonade and plums.

"We came out to see Vinny [Testaverde], Earnest [Byner] and the boys," she says of the Ravens.

Tony Ivey, 20, may have made the longest trip. Ivey and two friends, Randy Camarillo, 27, and Mark Lane, 18, drove 2 1/2 days from Los Angeles to Boston, Philadelphia and Westminster.

Ivey collects sports memorabilia. He recently purchased several Ravens helmets through a catalog for $50 each, and drove to Western Maryland College to get them autographed.

"The Ravens stuff, like jerseys and T-shirts, have not moved out to L.A. yet so we wanted to be the first to bring them back to the coast," he said. "We got a couple of friends back in L.A. who wanted some souvenirs. They're excited about what's happening in Baltimore."

Even Baltimoreans are sometimes wondering what's happening in Baltimore. Listen to this conversation:

Fan No. 1: "Where's Vinny? Or is this Zeier guy the quarterback?"

Fan 2: "It's Vinny. He had a great year last year."

Fan 1: "Vinny had a great year last year, but I heard Art Modell gave him the hook for Zeier."

Fan 2: "Oh no, we might have another Irsay on our hands. Does Modell have a son, like Irsay?"

Fan 1: "I heard he has two, and David is running the team. But somebody else said it was Art running the team, but another person told me Pat [Art Modell's wife] is really the one who pulls the strings."

Eventually, all the attention turns to the action on the field. A heavy concentration of fans follow around defensive line coach Jacob Burney. He is well defined, and as big as some of the players. His voice leaves an echo, and his players usually do the most banging.

The fans are into it, yelling at the big hits and screaming at the receivers who drop passes. Poor Calvin Williams. He dropped two yesterday.

TC But the boos don't last long. These fans have new-found heroes. Before and after each practice, young kids and rejuvenated adults stand behind a fence as the players enter and exit the practice fields.

A father has his son sitting on his shoulders with a football in hand. A woman stands at the top of the stairs asking receiver Michael Jackson to sign her T-shirt. An old man nudges a young kid for space along the fence.

They'll wait for hours for autographs from an Orlando Brown, Eric Turner, Larry Webster, Tony Jones, Ray Lewis and "Big Money" himself, Jonathan Ogden.

"Finally, you can come here to see them instead of going to far, other places," said Joe Rankin, 9, of McSherrystown, Pa.

"It's great to have other professionals besides the Orioles," said Joe Fisher, 10, of Essex.

Down at the far end of one stadium, someone had draped a sign over the fence. It said: The NFL Is Back In Baltimore.

Ravens roll call

Herman Arvie

Pos.: Offensive tackle

Height: 6-4

Weight: 305

Age: 25

College: Grambling

Pro experience: 4

How acquired: Fifth-round draft pick in 1993

Highlights: Started twice last season and can play either guard or tackle. Has played in all but one game in his three seasons.

Personal: Nicknamed "Big V". . . . At Grambling, started all 12 games as a senior and received first-team Sheridan Black College All-America and second-team NCAA Division I-AA honors. . . . Majored in therapeutic recreation. . . . His brother, Robert, is defensive line coach at Ruston (La.) High School. . . . Married on April 29, 1995.

Ravens schedule

Preseason

Date Opponent Time

Aug. 3 Philadelphia 7: 30

Aug. 10 at N.Y. Giants 1

Aug. 17 Green Bay 7

Aug. 23 at Buffalo 7: 30

Regular season

Sept. 1 Oakland 1

Sept. 8 at Pittsburgh 1

Sept. 15 at Houston 1

Sept. 22 Bye

Sept. 29 New Orleans 1

Oct. 6 New England 1

Oct. 13 at Indianapolis 8

Oct. 20 at Denver 4

Oct. 27 St. Louis 1

Nov. 3 Cincinnati 1

Nov. 10 at Jacksonville 4

Nov. 17 at San Francisco 4

Nov. 24 Jacksonville 1

Dec. 1 Pittsburgh 1

Dec. 8 at Cincinnati 1

Dec. 15 at Carolina 1

Dec. 22 Houston 1

Pub Date: 7/22/96

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