For Indians' Anderson, return to city is strangely familiar

`It just didn't seem right,' he says after 14 years here

May 07, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Brady Anderson stepped outside one of his favorite Little Italy restaurants Sunday night and, for a brief moment, forgot that he no longer lived in the city, forgot he no longer would return to the hotel where he stayed during the season. Never one to become too sentimentally attached to old surroundings, Anderson was struck by the comfort of where he stood.

"Certain things are so familiar that you forget how familiar they are," he said. "Walking out of there was one of them. It's amazing how many things can go through your mind in less than a second."

It was the same feeling that enveloped Anderson as his new team, the Cleveland Indians, arrived in Baltimore to begin a three-game series against the Orioles. The trip had brought Anderson to the place where he spent the past 14 years of his professional career. He'd dress in the opposite clubhouse, sit in the opposite dugout. If his return to Camden Yards was supposed to provide closure, it was bittersweet.

"Even when we started driving here last night, it was strange coming into the city," he said. "I never looked at it as that strange before. I'm not that emotional concerning my own plight in life. It wasn't really until I started driving into the city that it sort of impacted me. I can't explain it. It just didn't seem right."

Neither did the uniform that he wore as Indians' designated hitter, though it included the same No. 9.

"It's hard to get used to that glittery silver, no matter who you played for before," he said, wielding the same sense of humor that made him a media favorite with the Orioles. "Actually, it doesn't show up on the field, though, so it's not bad."

Anderson showed up yesterday with a .176 batting average and a temperamental back. Spasms kept him out Sunday.

A 4-for-6 start, which included a double, homer and three RBIs, had been buried under a 5-for-45 slump that reminded his fans of last season's .202 average. He went 2-for-4 and scored the winning run last night to lift his average to .200.

"I haven't been playing much," he said. "There was probably a 13-game stretch where I had three or four at-bats. You could sit around and moan about your situation. I chose to try to get better. I go in the cage all the time and sort of experiment with new things, and go back and look at tapes, which I really haven't been a huge believer in. I'll just continue to work and try to get better."

Released in November, Anderson signed with the Indians a month later, his last swing as an Oriole ending the 2001 season as Cal Ripken waited on deck. It came in his 700th game at Camden Yards, the most ever.

Told that the fans here never had the same chance to say goodbye to him as they did with Ripken, Anderson said, "No, they did all right. They were rooting for Cal when I was up. I thought that was a perfect goodbye. `We want Cal' during my last at-bat. What more could you ask for?"

Able to joke about his strikeout with the bases loaded that prevented Ripken, one of his closest friends, from hitting again, Anderson said, "I had a good game so I don't feel bad. Screw Cal. I didn't care about his last at-bat, I was worried about my own. He wouldn't have gotten that at-bat anyway if I hadn't gotten on base all day."

The Orioles ran a video tribute to Anderson after the first inning last night that barely caused a stir within a docile, uninterested crowd. Some fans stood as he was introduced in the second inning, but the applause didn't last long enough for him to respond.

Earlier in the day, he walked across the field during batting practice to greet Orioles manager Mike Hargrove and hitting coach Terry Crowley.

"Brady was an important part of the Orioles for such a long time," Hargrove said. "He gave it everything he had, he didn't offer excuses and he did what I asked him to do. He's a professional's professional, and a pretty good player."

Said Jeff Conine: "He's a good friend and he's missed around here. To look over on the other side of the field and see him sitting in that dugout will be weird."

Brook Fordyce said: "I hope he doesn't walk in and go to his old locker. He's on the other side now."

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