IN A MEETING room on the second floor of the Orioles' warehouse offices, with the lush outfield grass of Camden Yards visible below, Matt Dryer, the team's director of sales, pops a video in the VCR.
It's a compilation of TV commercials that feature "the kids" - seven young players anointed with a prominent role in the O's future: pitcher Sidney Ponson, second baseman Jerry Hairston, reliever Ryan Kohlmeier, catcher Brook Fordyce, outfielders Melvin Mora and Luis Matos and outfielder-first baseman Chris Richard.
Right now, there are weekend TV weather guys in Utah with a higher profile than these seven. There are waiters at Denny's who are more recognizable to the average O's fan.
But with their new "The kids are coming to play" ad campaign, the Orioles feel all that's about to change.
"We want people to get to know these guys," says Bill Stetka, the team's director of public relations, as the videotape rolls. "They're going to be around for a while."
The spots, created by the local ad agency Trahan, Burden & Charles and shot late last season, are funny and clever for the most part.
One features manager Mike Hargrove teaching three of the kids how to shave. ("OK, guys you're in the big leagues now. ... We want to see good, sound fundamentals. You want a nice clean stroke down. Not up, always down.")
Another - this one's hilarious - shows Hairston dreaming he's reached the pinnacle of major league fame: a souvenir bobble-head doll has been made in his likeness. Two others show "the kids" frolicking in the stadium sprinklers and in the "Moonbounce" room normally reserved for grade-schoolers.
The fifth shows the Hollywood-handsome Matos driving the tractor that smoothes the infield dirt. The sixth - this one struck me as kind of lame, but what do I know? - has a couple of the kids tossing bread crumbs to lure the Oriole Bird.
But the final one is another winner: O's legend Boog Powell teaching the kids how to eat crabs, which they take to as naturally as they would to, oh, origami.
As they whack the crabs with everything but a Louisville Slugger and pepper the genial Powell with questions ("What's this yellow stuff?"), they seem to genuinely be enjoying themselves.
"These kids were so great to work with," says Allan Charles, the creative force behind the commercials. "They reminded me of the old Orioles - Boog and Brooks, Palmer, Dempsey. They had that same kind of spirit."
As the Orioles begin spring training in Fort Lauderdale, it's clear this new season, for better or worse, is largely about "the kids."
Never mind that the O's won't be that much younger on Opening Day than they were last season. (There are still plenty of geezers in the starting lineup: Cal Ripken, 40, at third; Brady Anderson, 37, in the outfield; Mike Bordick, 35, at short; Albert Belle, 34, at DH; David Segui, 34, at first base.)
And since the Great Purge of last July, when over the span of four days, the team unloaded seven popular veterans - including Bordick (re-acquired in the off-season) and B.J. Surhoff - and replaced them with a bunch of young no-names, the O's have needed something to sell to their formerly adoring public.
The season, of course, was already in full crash-and-burn mode when the purge began. The Orioles would finish in fourth place. But they went 31-31 in their last 62 games, and the hustle and enthusiasm of the kids caused a few ripples of excitement down the stretch.
"All of a sudden, we were getting triples!" Dryer recalls of that time, the triple being the extra-base hit most associated with team speed, and therefore team youth.
"We had more triples  in the month of August than we did the entire 1998 season," adds Stetka.
So in late August, Dryer and Stetka and some others in the organization put their heads together. How can we capitalize on these kids and the diving, take-the-extra-base, infectious way they play? Dryer and team executive vice president John Angelos went to Trahan, Burden & Charles.
Soon, an ad concept was born.
Will it work? Will the fans turn out this season to watch a bunch of unheralded kids blended into a lineup of old guys with back and hip problems?
Who knows? So far, though, the initial signs are encouraging.
Ten thousand fans showed up at the team's annual Fan Fest, despite the fact the Ravens were playing the Oakland Raiders for the conference championship that weekend. The team also sold 20,000 game tickets in the first hour of the fest.
For now, anyway, the club plans to milk the kids for all they're worth.
The new TV spots, some of which have already aired, will continue on a rotating basis. A photo of the kids is the centerpiece of the team's print campaign to sell season mini-plan ticket packages. The kids will also be featured in a fashion spread in Baltimore magazine's April issue.
Clearly, for some, this youth movement comes not a moment too soon.
Dryer, for instance, recalls talking not long ago to a 12-year-old girl who was a friend of one of his neighbors. The girl mentioned she was in love with the Yankees' charismatic young shortstop, Derek Jeter.
"What's wrong with Brady?" Dryer asked, only half-jokingly.
The girl made a face. It was the kind of face you'd make if you just ran over a squirrel in your car.
"Brady's ... old," the girl said finally.
And that was the end of that conversation.