A fan's fan knows the score

Seat: When it comes to the Orioles, Walt Schmidt has his eye on the ball

July 09, 1999|By Sarah Pekkanen | Sarah Pekkanen,SUN STAFF

Walt Schmidt wasn't supposed to be in this story today.

The 39-year-old office supply salesman from Bel Air should have been just another faceless fan crammed into the bleacher section of Camden Yards, sipping lemonade and rooting against the Blue Jays.

But a moment before yesterday's game started, Schmidt made a decision. To get to his seat, he'd have to climb over a rowful of people. Why bother, when there was an empty spot near the aisle?

That's how Schmidt ended up in Section 96, Row N, Seat 14 -- the spot The Sun has been periodically profiling since Opening Day.

During the course of this series, we've met an ex-baseball pitcher, a woman whose boss handed her a ticket as a gift and a tipsy guy who got thrown out of the stadium for pulling down his buddy's pants.

Now add to the list a guy who loves baseball more than just about anything else in life.

From the time he was a kid who hopped on buses to watch $3 games at Memorial Stadium, Schmidt has been a devoted, one-man Orioles fan club.

At times, his fate even seems tied to the team's. When the Orioles don't do well, neither does he. "I can handle it," he jokes, "I just have to go to the doctor two or three times a month."

Quiz him on any bit of baseball trivia, and he puts "Jeopardy!" champions to shame:

Hottest game ever?

"At the All-Star Hitting Contest in '93, they had an old-timers game and the heat was like 100. A couple of guys were walking around with squirt bottles, and people were paying them a dollar a squirt."

Coldest?

"I came to the first game in this park in '92. It was ice-cold. And all the coffee and chocolate machines didn't work."

Best game ever?

"It was an afternoon game. We were playing the Tigers and were down 7-0. We came back and won 11-7. The excitement was unreal."

It's easy for Schmidt to pick his favorite game of this year: He has only been to one. He tried to make others, but something always came up. A salesman's schedule is unpredictable.

But yesterday, at long last, his appointment book gave him a break. After a week of being unbearable, the weather finally shaped up, too.

And, after the third inning, we did the kindest thing we could think of for this most ardent of fans. We left him alone.

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