To these fans, absence isn't a hot idea

Sun-baked attendees who braved Camden Yards yesterday certainly not fair weather fans


Hoping to get an autograph or catch a batting-practice homer, Cameron Parker came out to the front row of the left-field bleachers more than an hour before yesterday afternoon's Orioles game against the Seattle Mariners at Camden Yards.

The teams were in their respective clubhouses, staying out of the heat as long as possible, but Parker wouldn't let that ruin his annual father-son birthday trip to a different ballpark. So, the 16-year-old from New Hampshire enjoyed a cup of ice cream and just soaked in the atmosphere - even though he would ultimately be the one soaking with sweat on a day when the game-time temperature was 102 degrees.

"He always wanted to see Camden Yards," said Parker's father, Ron. "Of course, a month ago when you make the reservation [for] the tickets, you never know the heat's going to be like this."

Like the Parkers, many among the announced crowd of 17,682 yesterday came to the park from out of town and had little choice but to bear the hottest day of the year.

Ken Jonach, a Mariners fan from Cedar Knoll, N.J., said he has come to Baltimore every year to see his favorite team, but couldn't recall an afternoon like yesterday. Jonach sat two rows behind the Seattle dugout wearing an Edgar Martinez T-shirt with the sleeves cut off and said he now realizes how hot it is for the players on the field level.

"I feel bad for the catcher," he said. "It's got to be uncomfortable with all that stuff on."

While the players suffered through the heat during the game, the fans had various approaches to stay cool.

A few brought umbrellas to shield the sun - and maybe to block their view of a scoreboard shot showing an on-field thermometer with the mercury climbing to 120 degrees.

Keith Hodges, an 18-year-old from Severna Park, seemed confident his method of filling his hat with ice and visiting a misting station on the right-field flag court was the best way to stay comfortable. Plus, he said he couldn't pass up a free ticket, which was offered to him by a friend after another buddy decided not to go to the game because of the weather.

Debbie Reed of Towson might have been the most well-prepared fan at the park. Not only did she purposely get a seat in the shade when she bought her ticket Friday, but she also took advantage when the Orioles allowed fans to bring items into the park, carrying around two plastic bags containing a spray bottle, water bottles and a towel.

Donte Jones, 12, and Davon Marshall, 13, carried nothing but their already sweat-stained tank tops when they entered the ballpark and immediately raced to the nearest water fountain.

"I just want to see the game," said Marshall, who planned to visit the water fountain between each inning. "I can't pass up a chance to go to the game."

As it got later in the afternoon, some fans took shelter from the sun, but with the score remaining close in an eventual 2-1 Seattle victory, there weren't too many people leaving early.

"We'd like to watch the game from here," joked Jerry Kramer, of Gettysburg, Pa., who took a break from the heat and stood under the covered concourse. "I didn't know it was going to [feel like] 112 degrees, but I'm not going to skip the game. I plan on sticking it out."

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