Many of the Orioles returned to Camden Yards for the last time yesterday, packing up their belongings, gloves, bats and uniform tops. Bobby Bonilla was there, as were Scott Erickson, Arthur Rhodes, Alan Mills and others.
Some of the players cleaned out their lockers after their team was eliminated by the New York Yankees Sunday, after a season in which the Orioles finished 88-74, won a wild-card berth and beat Cleveland in the Division Series.
Almost to a man, they want to be back in 1997, and they hope the front office leaves the team generally intact.
The season, center fielder Brady Anderson said, was a success. "There are only going to be two teams that went further than we did this year," he said. "It started out slowly, looking like it might just be a plain season for us. It seemed like we were close to seven games out in July or something. This series [against the Yankees] was disappointing, but the overall year, the way we kept coming back, and the way we beat the Indians in the first round, it was a good year.
"Right now, it's not satisfying, after getting swept at Camden Yards and not being able to perform better against the Yankees. It's hard to be satisfied with it right now. In a few days, maybe."
Anderson liked the makeup of the lineup, which hit more homers than any other team in history. "We proved this year we have a very solid lineup," he said. "Once we got our bullpen together and our rotation a little more set, we started performing well in the playoffs against the top teams in the majors. I think what we did this year speaks for itself."
Pitcher David Wells is a potential free agent who wants to come back. "You'd be crazy not to want to come back to this ballclub," he said Sunday. "It's a quality ballclub. The guys are great. Mr. Angelos [owner Peter Angelos] made us feel a part of Baltimore more than anything, because he blocked the trades of Bobby [Bonilla] and I. You've got to tip your hat to that man."
Jesse Orosco is another potential free agent. "I can't say whether I'm going to be here for sure or not," he said, "but the Baltimore Orioles organization showed they've got something going on here, they really do. They have a lot of talent here. If this team could get it going next year, right off the bat, that'll go a
long way. I think a lot of guys don't realize how good this team can be next year."
Bill Ripken: "This club has always been one that interacts well with each other. People will say [about certain players], 'He was a bad apple here, he was a bad apple there but guys here get along well.
"It's a nice group we have here and I hope we all come back."
Catcher Mark Parent may or may not be back, depending on what the Orioles decide to do with their catching situation. "I want to be somewhere where I'm happy," he said, "and where I know the team wants to win and do whatever it takes to win, and I think this is a prime organization for that, starting with the owner on down. I have a lot of respect for Mr. Angelos, and I have a lot of respect for the guys in this [clubhouse]."