Heavy rains in the Baltimore area did more than delay last night's game between the Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays at Camden Yards. They also kept the commander in chief waiting.
Actor Martin Sheen, who portrays President Josiah Bartlet in the popular television series The West Wing, threw out the first pitch for the drama's final episode of the season. His windups - there were four of them - came about 45 minutes late because of the weather.
Sheen rehearsed the scene earlier in the day, walking from the dugout to the mound and waving to a fictitious crowd. He bounced a few throws to home plate before retreating inside.
Once the real shooting began, Sheen was given four chances to record a strike, or something close to it. His first attempt veered outside, the second was high, the third skipped in front of catcher Javy Lopez, and the fourth sailed to the backstop.
Asked a few hours earlier what Lopez should look for, Sheen quipped: "A lot of dirt on the ball."
Cameramen and other employees of the show crowded the area in front of the home dugout before the game. Sheen and actor John Spencer, who portrays chief of staff Leo McGarry, were filmed as they toured the clubhouse.
Rafael Palmeiro and Miguel Tejada rose from one of the sofas to shake Sheen's hand, and Jerry Hairston wandered over for an introduction.
"Don't get up," Spencer said to Palmeiro. "You have a game to play tonight."
The actors also stopped by manager Lee Mazzilli's office. "I asked them if they could hit," he said.
Sheen said the mound looked "three miles away" from the plate, another sign that he's not a natural at the sport.
"I'm acting. That's what I do for a living. I'm into fakery," he said. "I'm not a baseball player. I don't have a sense of it at all."
Asked if he would be nervous once the crowd filed in, Sheen said, "Sure, wouldn't you?"
Sheen is the second member of his family to visit the ballpark. His son, actor Charlie Sheen, was filmed at Camden Yards for the movie Major League II.
"I watched him play here," Sheen said. "I also walked on the Yankee mound about 45 years ago. I did a commercial at Yankee Stadium. But that's about it."
Hairston back swinging
Hairston did some hitting in the cage yesterday and took ground balls during infield drills. No longer wearing a splint to protect his fractured knuckle, the second baseman expects to begin a rehab assignment within the next five days.
"It healed great," said Hairston, who suffered the injury to his right ring finger while diving into third base during the first exhibition game.
"It feels really good. I'm pleased that it's healed this way. Now I just want to get out there and play again. It's a fun game, especially when you're winning."
Hairston said he'll take batting practice outside before today's game against the Blue Jays. He expects the workouts at Camden Yards to last for three to five days before joining a minor league affiliate.
Because his spring training consisted of only one inning, Hairston believes he'll need about seven games in the minors before being activated from the disabled list. He's targeting the first week of May for his return.
New Hampshire heroes
Mike Flanagan, the 1979 Cy Young Award winner who serves as the Orioles' vice president of baseball operations, is counted among the top six homegrown sports figures from New Hampshire in this week's Sports Illustrated.
Flanagan, who's from Manchester, pitched in two World Series with the Orioles. He's joined on the list by Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk, Olympic swimmer Jenny Thompson, runner Lynn Jennings, former Yankees third baseman Red Rolfe and skier Bode Miller.
"One year," Flanagan said, "I got beat out for Athlete of the Year by a New Hampshire racehorse."
Fisk might need an asterisk beside his name.
"He was born in this border town. It's really Vermont," Flanagan said. "New Hampshirites really don't claim him."
Around the horn
As expected, the Orioles optioned outfielder Tim Raines Jr. to Triple-A Ottawa after the game and recalled pitcher Erik Bedard, who will start today against the Blue Jays. ... B.J. Surhoff is 5-for-8 in his past two starts.