Baseball Seasoning

In Baltimore, the rituals of Opening Day add spice to life for fans and bystanders alike. Let's meet a few of the faces in the crowd.

April 05, 1999

Good morning. Today is the eighth Opening Day at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. But this spring ritual is much more than a stat.

Meet Josh Barmer, a 12-year-old from Aberdeen, who breaks in a new glove every season. Larry Schulmeister, a hospital chaplain, lives close enough to Camden Yards to hear the crack of the bat. A bell captain at Harbor Court Hotel, Joe Kennick can literally smell Opening Day. And there's Vince Poist at Pickles Pub, where today is a national holiday. Camden Yards is their livelihood, their love, their passion and their pastime.

As its ritual, The Sun will write an estimated 648 stories about 162 Orioles games this season. But after today, there won't be another word written about Josh Barmer, Larry Schulmeister, Joe Kennick or Vince Poist. So, this is their Opening Day:

He bought a new glove. That was the first sign. Every year, before a fresh baseball season, 12-year-old Josh Barmer gets to buy a new baseball glove.

He bought the new glove, a Ken Griffey Jr. model, two weeks ago.

Josh knew what to do with it, too. He rubbed shaving cream in the middle, to make it supple, then placed a baseball in the pocket and wrapped the entire glove tight with a rubber band. He put the glove under his mattress and slept on it every night. You don't want a stiff glove on Opening Day. "It feels good," he says. "It's ready."

Josh lives in Aberdeen, the town where Cal Ripken Jr. grew up. He attends sixth grade at the Aberdeen Middle School, the same school Ripken attended. He cheers for the Baltimore Orioles, Ripken's team. "I met him once," he says. "Got his autograph. We went back to that fence where the players park and I asked him for his autograph and he gave it to me."

Josh told him he lived in Aberdeen. "He said it was a good place to live."

Like everyone else in town, Josh was sad to hear that Cal Ripken Sr. died recently. Josh knows what it's like to lose somebody, too. Last fall, his great-grandfather died.

They used to listen to Orioles games on the radio. Josh can imitate the way his great-grandfather used to whoop and holler when the O's made a good play or scored a run. He'll miss that this season.

Josh likes baseball. Unlike other sports, "you don't have to get hit a lot." He plays all positions on his team, but mostly centerfield. Practice already has started.

When he thinks of baseball, "I always think of that smell of the grass when it's just been cut. You know? That's what the first game is like to me."

He's looking forward to the O's season. "I think it's going to be good with Albert Belle," he says. Josh will be in Oriole Park on Opening Day. His uncle has tickets and the people in charge of his school had the good sense to schedule spring break during the start of baseball season.

To Josh, Opening Day means the end of winter and -- it won't be long -- the end of another school year. The great thing is, anything's possible. The O's could win the World Series. (Hey, it's possible.) Josh could hit a home run in his first at-bat.

When he gets older, maybe Josh will wear a big-league uniform and have a museum in his name in Aberdeen. Who knows -- maybe they'll put a statue of him next to Cal's.

When you sleep on your glove, it catches your dreams. Right, Josh?

"You never know what's going to happen."

-- Ken Fuson

Nice neighbors

Baseball hits close to home for Larry Schulmeister. In the afternoon shadows of Camden Yards, Schulmeister's rowhouse is in the ballpark of 100 yards from where Cal Ripken plays third.

Schulmeister, chaplain at the University of Maryland Medical Center, makes his home in the neighborhood of Ridgely, which makes its home in the neighborhood of Camden Yards. Only Russell Street separates Schulmeister from Orioles baseball 81 times a season. Before each Opening Day, Schulmeister watches the landscaping trucks and crews ritualistically spruce up The Yard.

"It marks spring for me," he says.

Let the box score show that Schulmeister ("Yes, people tell me I look like Steven Spielberg, but I don't really") is not a card-carrying baseball fan. He doesn't own a stitch of Orioles merchandise. Maybe once a season, he travels that long 100 yards to watch a game, where he gets bored and leaves early.

Why leave home? He certainly hears the game fine from his family room. In fact, he watches the Orioles on TV but keeps the sound turned down.

"I can hear the crack of the bat," he says. "You have a sense of whether the O's are doing well that night or not. If I hear long stretches of silence, I know it's a pitching duel or a bad night for the Orioles."

Let the box score show that Schulmeister moved to Ridgley in 1983 -- the last time the O's won a World Series. He doesn't remember when they opened Camden Yards (1992). He did start noticing many, many people trying to park on his street, Warner Street. In his lifetime here, Schulmeister will never pay to park to see the Orioles. This must be a blessing of sorts.

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