Sarbanes goes from Hill to mound

Veteran senator to have first-pitch honors today

April 04, 2005|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

As Maryland's longest-serving U.S. senator, Paul Sarbanes often jokingly referred to himself as the Cal Ripken of lawmaking.

Today, he will for a brief time make an appearance on Ripken's home turf as he throws out the ceremonial first pitch. Sarbanes, in his fifth term, is retiring next year, the end of his 30th season. Ripken played 21 seasons for the Orioles.

Sarbanes has been to the Camden Yards mound before on Opening Day, but only as an escort. He and junior senator Barbara Mikulski accompanied astronauts Robert Curbeam Jr. and Thomas Jones to the hill in 2001, but stood by as they delivered the ceremonial tosses.

The senator, who played baseball for Wicomico High School, but basketball at Princeton University, has been practicing his toss with a ball donated by his chief of staff. No word, however, on whether the senior senator will make this throw from the red carpet in front of the mound or from the pitching rubber, as President Clinton did in 1996.

The pre-game ceremony also will include tributes to Johnny Oates, who was Orioles manager when the ballpark opened in 1992, and longtime announcer Chuck Thompson. Both men died since the end of last season.

Of course, fans starved for baseball work up powerful appetites for other things, as well. Orioles management estimates that on Opening Day the ballpark staff will serve: 10,000 hot dogs, 3,000 Boog's barbecue beef sandwiches, 1,640 gallons of soda, 1,500 bags of peanuts, 500 bags of Cracker Jack and 600 bags of popcorn.

With Camden Yards entering its 14th season (the Orioles now have the 15th-oldest ballpark in the major leagues), workers have spent the winter tweaking the look of the stadium to keep up with the times and in some instances enhance the "retro" image.

"The challenge is when you have the best-looking ballpark, what can you do to make it look better?" said Roger Hayden, head of stadium operations. "We do a lot of little things. We specialize in nitpicking."

The brick work at field level behind home plate has been extended almost down to the foul poles. The "Wrigley Field look" is enhanced by the ivy beyond center field, which was replaced last year and should grow about 3 feet this year.

A ribbon board has been added below the JumboTron to run news briefs and advertisements.

But perhaps the biggest change won't be noticed until Wednesday's night game, when the Orioles shed more light on the seating bowl.

Hayden said Orioles owner Peter Angelos came back from Citizens Bank Park, the Philadelphia Phillies' new home, with this scouting report: Their lighting is a lot brighter than ours.

"We investigated, and he was right. He has a great ability to pick out those things - aesthetics - that make for a better experience," Hayden said.

As a result, ballpark management added 80 lights to increase illumination by nearly 50 percent.

"In Philly, it looks great. We're anxious to see how it looks here," Hayden said.

Today's schedule

Noon: Gates open

12:25 p.m.-1:25 p.m.: Orioles batting practice

2:25 p.m.: Pre-game ceremony begins

3:05 p.m.: Game starts

Ceremonial pitch: U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes

National anthem: Sung by tenor Richard Troxell

"Take Me Out to the Ball Game": Sung by tenor Benjamin Brecher

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