Orioles glad call wasn't `play ball'

Team understands baseball's decision, gears up for Tuesday

September 16, 2001|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Fans were supposed to fill Camden Yards yesterday, and not just once. The Orioles were scheduled to play a makeup day-night doubleheader against the Boston Red Sox, but it was postponed in the wake of Tuesday's terrorist attacks, so the only sounds coming from a near-empty ballpark were the product of another workout.

A small tour group sat behind home plate for several minutes while the Orioles took batting and fielding practice. Otherwise, the only witnesses to the two-hour session, which included pitchers throwing off the mound and in the bullpen, and a pop-up drill for catchers usually seen in spring training, were a few club employees and reporters.

"At this point in the season, nobody wants to be doing this," said catcher Brook Fordyce. "We'd rather be playing games, and obviously we can't be doing that. We all understand. With a couple weeks to go, practicing is the last thing on anybody's mind.

"This is more about getting out there and staying in rhythm. But these have been long days."

Outside the ballpark, three male fans were deciding their next move after taking a tour. They had driven from Pennsylvania with the initial plan of watching an Orioles game yesterday and the NFL's Washington Redskins today. They knew of the postponements before making the trip but decided to spend their weekend here anyway.

"We came to see the 'Skins and Orioles and got shut out," said Kevin Sica, 33, of Quakertown, Pa. "We figured, we already made the arrangements, and we'll get away for a few days. We went to the ESPN Zone on the only weekend ever with no sports."

"We already had this weekend all set up. We figured, use it or lose it," said David DeRenzio, 35, also of Quakertown.

"They should at least play baseball. It's not a rowdy sport, and it might get everyone's minds off the tragedy for a few hours. People need a diversion."

Yesterday's workout provided a short one. Many of the discussions among players and coaches eventually led to the same topic, even if it began someplace else.

"Everybody talks about it all the time," said Orioles manager Mike Hargrove. "You start a conversation with anybody around there, that's what you're going to end up talking about."

Everyone within the clubhouse remained in agreement that Major League Baseball took the correct approach in postponing games through the weekend rather than trying to play on Friday, which had been considered.

"Over the weekend, you needed to mourn. There's no doubt about that. And I think Monday was the perfect time [to resume]," Fordyce said. "A day of prayer was yesterday, so you couldn't do it then, and guys aren't ready to go back. And the country's not ready. I don't think you could get people to the games. Hopefully, after a few days of playing baseball, fans will get in the mood to see it again."

Said reliever Buddy Groom: "It was the best decision not to play until Monday. I think the feeling of the whole country was a need for people to take time and soak all this in and pay our respects for families who lost people in this. It's the worst thing that could happen. We'll bounce back from it, though, and I think the country will be stronger than it was before."

Said Hargrove: "Somehow we all find a way to do what we have to do, but this made sense, without a doubt."

The Orioles will make their first trip tomorrow when they fly to Toronto to begin a three-game series the next night. They still must travel to Boston and New York, prominent cities in last week's tragedies.

By taking charters, the Orioles aren't exposed to the same risks as passengers on commercial flights, but Groom said he'll still be nervous.

"You're always going to feel that way because of the whole situation," he said. "We know who we are and we know who's on there, but those guys [terrorists] trained as pilots. Who's to say that one of those guys can't be one of our pilots. Not that it would happen, but you never know. That would be the perfect way to wipe out an entire team real quickly. That's always going to cross your mind.

"Guys at the end of the season who were planning on flying home, I think most everybody's going to drive now."

Hargrove said "anybody in their right mind" would remain somewhat apprehensive, given the horrible events of the past week.

"I think it's only normal," he said. "You wonder who's servicing the plane. You wonder who's loading the luggage. There are a lot of things where you have to trust other people to do their jobs correctly. But I don't know of anything in life that you can take all the uncertainty out of.

"We leave here Monday, and I'll be on the plane."

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