And the show opens

April 03, 2006

Terry Eney and Patricia Lee endured a hard week of spring training - er, spring cleaning - to rid their small souvenir stand of a winter's dirt and debris. By last week, their kiosk - on Eutaw Street by Camden Yards' flag court - overflowed with everything Orioles, from 50-cent postcards to $69 sweatshirts. And the two ladies - Ms. Eney is from Lansdowne and Ms. Lee is from Glen Burnie - had their game smiles on.

Today at the Yard, the grass will be green, the beer will be cold and this year's squad of millionaires will take the field shortly after 3 p.m. for the hometown ballclub's 52nd opener. But long before, a cast of hundreds has made sure the bunting has been properly hung, the seats have been nicely power-washed, the field precisely soaked and the brats grilled just so. "On Opening Day," says Thomas Greene, who affably mans a security desk for some of the offices in the Yards' signature warehouse, "it's like beavers around here. Everybody doing this and that. The job has to be done, and it gets done."

Oh, there's baseball to ponder, too. What of the O's, coming off their eighth straight losing season? Baltimore fans are among the nation's more rabid, having set attendance records in better years, but now even they are showing well-deserved signs of impatience. The best that could be said is that the team's management didn't panic in the off-season and give away the store once more to some over-the-hill slugger. It added by subtraction (good riddance, Raffy and Sammy) and hired a new catcher and a wizard named Leo Mazzone to keep earned runs away from the club's promising young arms.

He may just do that. (Insert truism about hope springing eternal.) A more certain bet may be that Ms. Eney and Ms. Lee, who hustle on commission, will rack up another great year. Last season, of 10 such stands at the ballpark, their sales total jumped from ninth to fourth place, they say. They're on a roll, no doubt because they love the fans, the hoopla, the whole game-time scene.

Their big seller is an 18-inch wood bat, priced at $7. Ms. Eney figures she's sold more than 5,000 of them since 1997. Every kid who buys one gets the same spiel. She looks at the wide-eyed youngsters and their mothers and says, "You can have this bat, but if you swing it in the house, she is going to be all over you like chocolate sauce on ice cream." Only one child has ever given a bat back to her.

All part of the show.

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