Here they were, 30 of Maryland's finest, tracing the white chalk at Oriole Park before the start of the Orioles' game against the Colorado Rockies yesterday. They were there because they had earned it, because they were the best at what they did and Camden Yards, if only for a late afternoon, was all theirs.
That's why the young men who participated in the Brooks Robinson All-Star High School Game didn't mind the 11-man lineups, didn't mind waiting for foul balls to be tossed back onto the field so play could resume, didn't mind starting a game and knowing that someone on the bench would finish it.
And as the sun fell on the park, the South held on to beat the North, 5-4, in seven innings. Quince Orchard's Kyle Judson was the game's Most Valuable Player, going 2-for-3 for the South and stealing two bases. Chris Moore of Chesapeake-Anne Arundel took home honors as the South's best pitcher.
"It's a thrill of a lifetime for some of these kids," said Arundel's Bernie Walter, one of three South coaches. "Most of these kids will probably never get on this field again. This gives them the opportunity to come out here and play in something special."
The South took a 4-0 lead in the first inning, led by RBI singles from Huntingtown's Matthew Baden and Parkside's Brian Green.
The South never trailed, but Centennial's Austin Harclerode of the North made it interesting in the seventh when he hit the game's only home run, a bases-empty shot, to left, bringing his team within one.
"That was definitely one of the most exciting things I've ever done, especially playing here," Harclerode said. "I'll remember it for the rest of my life."
The 26th edition of this event, formerly the Crown All-Star Game, featured 30 seniors from Maryland divided into a North team with players from Baltimore and counties north and west of the city and a South team with players from south of the city and the Eastern Shore.
Moore, who worked two scoreless innings, said it wasn't important how well he played, but that he got the chance to play at Camden Yards.
Walter said: "It's about having fun; it's about honoring the seniors. Technically, this is their last high school baseball game ever, and this is a good place to finish it."