Fly-fishing could save Albert Belle from himself

This Just In . . .

June 11, 1999|By Dan Rodricks

I SEE WHERE Albert Belle likes to fish. Lenny Webster, the Orioles' nice-guy catcher, let that slip Wednesday night after Bad Albert -- oh, he of short fuse -- blew up at Ray Miller in the dugout. Reporters were looking for explanations. "Albert likes to fish," Webster explained. "He was just inviting Ray to go fishing with him."

These players know one another, in a way we fans can never know them. Webster must have heard a clubhouse conversation about fishing, and he might have heard Albert mention that he likes to fish. (Or maybe Lenny read it on Albert's Web site. A sign next to No. 88's locker says: "For interview requests, please refer to my Web site! Thanks, AB.")

Mike Bordick fishes. Will Clark likes it. Jeff Reboulet has been getting into fly-fishing slowly, when time allows. Former Orioles and others in the organization -- Mike Flanagan, Al Bumbry, Jimmy Key, Lee May, for instance -- like to wet a line now and then.

And now, I hear Albert Belle likes to fish.

Of course, there's a big difference between "likes to" fish and "fishes." I would say, just by observing this man from the upper reserved seats, that Albert Belle doesn't fish much. Certainly not enough. And certainly he does not engage in the Zen-like art of fly-fishing for wild trout in catch-and-release rivers. If he did, people would not regard him as the ill-tempered, profanity-uttering, one-dimensional man he's become.

He's young yet, this one. Only 32. There's still time. He can be saved.

Albert is signed to be a Baltimore Oriole for the rest of this season and four more. If he is to play to his potential, and in a way that brings honor to him, to Baltimore and to the Orioles, he must find peace.

Profound, inner peace.

He must act to quell the storms in his soul.

He must let go of the things that poison his spirit. He must become centered and whole, like a Jedi.

He must come fly-fishing with me during the sulfur fly hatch on the Big Gunpowder.

I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my bones. It's a mission from God.

Albert Belle can be saved through fly-fishing.

He must don hip waders and step reverently, gingerly into the environment of the wild trout. He must come to the domain of the fish with humility, respect and a couple of Slim Jims in his fanny pack. He must leave his ego and his bat at home -- we catch fish, Albert, we do not beat them -- and he must learn how to gracefully cast with an 8-foot, 4-weight fly rod for the purpose of placing in the feeding lanes of the river tiny yellow flies made from feathers and animal hair.

There is great reward in this.

As he faces the challenge of casting the fly to the perfect spot upstream of a spooky wild trout, Albert Belle will feel demons leave his body and soon have no consciousness of himself or Ray Miller. He will be at one with the river. He will feel release.

It won't even matter if he catches a fish.

Fly-fishing requires good hands and good eyes. ("Good hand-eye," as the scouts say.) But most of all, fly-fishing requires patience, gentleness, concentration, a quiet heart and the will to avoid using pieces of hot dog for bait. This is where I can take Albert Belle with a fly rod -- to a better place that will make him a better man. He might even get his batting average over .250.

Come with me, my brother.

The All-Star break is coming up. (That should give you plenty of free time.) So is the sulfur hatch. So is the rest of your life.

Of course, Albert could always stick an anisette-laced dough ball on a hook and try to catch carp and catfish for Baltimore's needy. The River Tuna and Catfish Invitational, an annual weeklong tournament aimed at providing fresh fish for soup kitchens, gets under way Sunday. There are prizes for competitors. Richard Gick, the Howard County decoy carver who's been running this thing for years, says the Helping Up Mission on East Baltimore Street has agreed to take the catches and cook the fish for its daily visitors. If you want to enter, call Gick at 410-747-4246.

Kindness interrupted

In a fit of magnanimity, Deanie Garcia, a TJI reader in Perry Hall, decided to commit a random act of kindness: She left a quarter deposit in the shopping cart at BJ's Wholesale Club. For the uninitiated: A lot of big-box warehouse stores have shopping cart stables on their parking lots. To use a cart, you have to slip a quarter in a slot. You get the quarter back when you return the cart to its lockup. "Many times I've shopped at BJ's and realized I didn't have a quarter, so I couldn't get a cart on the way into the store," Deanie says. So, one day, she leaves the quarter for the next person. The act did not go unnoticed. Some people putting groceries in a car nearby saw what Deanie did. "I expected them to say, 'Hey, lady, you forgot to get your money back!'" she says. Instead, they waited until she started to drive away. One of them jumped out of a car and grabbed the quarter.

This Just In appears three days a week. Dan Rodricks can be reached at 410-332-6166, by e-mail at dan.rodricks@baltsun.com, or by post at The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.

Pub Date: 06/11/99

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