The casual fan

Baseball: The Sun begins its season-long report from one seat in the bleachers, where Lori Thompson found the O's sure beat a day at the office.

April 07, 1999|By Michael Ollove | Michael Ollove,SUN STAFF

There are any number of ways to come by Opening Day tickets, but the best way of all is as a last-minute gift. You come to the office on a Monday morning expecting one sort of day, only to be detoured into a completely different one. Instead of sitting in front of a computer terminal like any other Monday, you find yourself in the sun-soaked bleachers at Camden Yards for the most festive game of the year.

That is the definition of a good workday, and it was Lori Thompson's on Monday. A software engineer who lives in Westminster, she showed up for work at Dentsply InfoSoft, a maker of dental software in White Marsh, only to be handed two tickets by her boss for the Orioles opener.

"I must have done OK this year," she said.

So that's how Thompson came to be the first fan of the 1999 Orioles season to sit in Section 96, Row N, Seat 14. Is there any significance to that seat? Not at all, except that during the course of this baseball season, The Sun's "Today" section will periodically visit with the ever-changing occupants of that very seat as a way of tracking the ups and downs of the baseball year and the fans who come to experience it.

Our first seat-dweller is not someone likely to be emotionally swept away by either a championship Orioles season or an abysmal one. "I'll watch some games, but I don't get all stressed out if they lose," said Thompson, 29, who gave her second ticket to a co-worker, Steve Mallot. She is far from a hardcore fan, admitting sheepishly, "I don't even know who some of the players are this year."

Her husband Dave does know the players. He's the serious fan in this couple, so naturally he was eating his heart out after Lori called to tell him that she was going to the game.

Even if Lori can't compute an ERA, that didn't diminish her capacity to enjoy Monday's nearly perfect Opening Day. Maybe because the grayness of winter is still fresh in everyone's mind, but on Opening Day, all the colors seem remarkably vivid. The field is a rich green, the uniforms pristine white, and the sky Pacific blue. The sun made it feel like late June in the bleachers, except for an occasional chill breeze to remind us that we're still working the cold weather out of our system.

Thompson's seat was deep in the right center bleachers, directly behind second baseman Jeff Reboulet and between the powerfully built Brady Anderson and the even more powerfully built Albert Belle. Strong aromas waft in the air from the barbecue stands on the Flag Court and from the cigar smokers who collected there.

Thompson said she almost prefers the bleachers to anywhere else. You can't decipher the giant scoreboard but, "You can see the whole field from here," she said.

Like any casual baseball fan, Thompson prefers lots of action. "I like a lot of hitting and running," she said. The last thing she comes to the ballpark for is a pitcher's duel. So Monday's opener was earmarked just for Thompson, with balls shot to all parts of the stadium, including home runs by both Anderson and Belle to the nearby rightfield stands. When Belle resumed his position in right field, he waved his glove toward the bleachers, where many fans were on their feet clapping.

"A very good game," Thompson said. "No boring parts." Plus, the price was just right. In all, a perfect day at the office.

Pub Date: 4/07/99

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