California dreaming: O's wake, find there's still season to play

Orioles happy to go back to work, face Angels

August 31, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

ANAHEIM, Calif. - As the clock ticked down toward what would have been Major League Baseball's ninth work stoppage in 30 years, many of the Orioles were oblivious to the sound. They were asleep in their hotel rooms after a late flight from Texas, and news that the players union and ownership had settled yesterday on a four-year collective bargaining agreement could wait a little longer.

Jeff Conine didn't have that luxury. He participated in an 8 a.m. conference call with the players association that lasted 30 minutes. Less than an hour after he hung up, "it was done."

"It's been pure adrenaline since then," he said. "I went to sleep last night thinking, `Well, hopefully I'll wake up in the morning and hear something good. If not, luckily I'm from out here and I can go to my parents' house and hang out with my sister and her family and see a bunch of friends and play some golf.' But I really wanted everyone to come to the game tonight and watch us play."

The Orioles didn't get into Anaheim until 2 a.m. Once they awoke, it was pretty much business as usual, including the distribution of meal money that had been held in case of a strike.

"I woke up at 10 a.m. to see if I still had a job," said Jay Gibbons. "I said, `Good,' and went back to sleep for another hour. It was a lot easier. It felt like a huge weight was lifted."

"I felt like we'd be playing," said Chris Singleton, "I guess because we do this every day. It's a lot easier because you're just so used to the routine. As I was getting up, it's just conditioned in my mind that it's a regular day, a regular routine. There were some questions the last couple of days and you wondered, but when it came time, I felt like things were just too close for it not to get done.

"It's stressful when you go through something like this. The uncertainty, all the distractions that come along with it. It's a big relief just to have that done. It'll probably take a day or two to let it all subside, but it will be much more enjoyable now."

Back at Camden Yards, various department heads met for the first time yesterday morning to discuss such issues as refunding money for canceled games and the strike's effect on player appearances and community events. Nobody on Eutaw Street wanted to concede such losses, but the approaching deadline left them no choice.

"Probably every TV in the building was on ESPN or CNN," said club spokesman Bill Stetka. "That's where we were getting our information."

With players and owners reaching an agreement, the Orioles could concentrate last night on ending their six-game losing streak. They'll most likely activate Sidney Ponson from the disabled list tomorrow and prepare for Pat Hentgen's return. They'll expand the roster with minor-league call-ups, and try to forget phrases like "luxury tax" and "revenue sharing."

"I think probably the best reflection of the mood in the warehouse is a huge sigh of relief and the excitement that we've avoided the disastrous situation that would have come about with a strike," said Joe Foss, the Orioles' vice chairman/chief operating officer. "People are catching their breath and looking forward to the month of September and next year."

Jason Johnson, the Orioles' union representative, started last night's game and wasn't available for comment as players trickled in the clubhouse. It's an unwritten rule that the starting pitcher doesn't talk to reporters before a game.

Business as usual.

"At least for another four years," Gibbons said.

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