Big-league dreams

78 chase baseballs in bid to be selected for Orioles ball boys, or ball girls

March 08, 2009|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

A sea of orange and black swept through Camden Yards yesterday afternoon as 78 men and women tried out to field errant balls during the Orioles' new season. Those chosen will be called ball boys and ball girls, but applicants could be no younger than 18 and the oldest was 51.

"I'm a little nervous," said Chad Zuk, 21, a Dundalk electrician, who said he has attended every Opening Day with his grandfather since he was 4.

After filling out an application in a basement room, it was out onto the field - a place one usually gets to only by way of a professional contract. Some stood in line pounding gloves and chatting with other hopefuls, while some lounged in the visitor's dugout on the third base side, taking in the ambience and dreaming big-league dreams.

Brenden C. Bradley, 18, a freshman at Howard Community College, said he was so excited he came an hour earlier than the appointed time at noon.

"I grew up in this ballpark. This is just awesome. If I don't make it, it was still exciting just being out on this field," Bradley said.

When their numbers were called, candidates stood before a video camera explaining why they wanted a job that pays minimum wage while the four judges patiently listened. Five or six will be selected and will work the 81 home games on a rotating basis.

Bryan Lynch, a Lansdowne truck driver, said, "I love the crack of the bat, the smell of freshly cut grass and especially the smell of Boog Powell's barbecue. That's why I want to be here, besides being a big Orioles fan."

Next it was time to race out and sit on a stool in foul territory where one day they might ply their trade snagging foul balls. When the Orioles' "Charge!" was blasted over the public address system, they had to jump to their feet demonstrating how they'd whip up a crowd sitting in the 48,262 seats that were vacant yesterday. The final test was fielding three or four grounders.

Their judges were the "Dean," Ernie Tyler, an Orioles umpire's attendant who hasn't missed a home game in more than 40 years.

"I'm looking for a lot of bubbly personalty," he said.

He was joined by former Orioles pitcher Dave Johnson, currently an MASN and Orioles Radio personality, and two members from the Orioles front office.

Would-be ball girl Joyce Codd, 51, said she has played baseball all her life and nearly played for the old Colorado Silver Bullets, an all-female professional baseball team, before being cut at the last minute. She drove in from her Westminster home.

After crisply fielding a couple of grounders, she jogged by the judges and flashed a big smile. "Being on this field has been a dream my whole life," she said.

Some knew their chances were slim, but they had fun anyway.

"I don't think I'll get it, but I tried," said Angie Yeaton, 18, a freshman nursing student at Harford Community College.

Ricky Moore, 26, said he is recovering from a stroke he suffered last year. "I'm currently unemployed, and figured this would be a good place to start to get back into the job market."

Matthew Kling, 33, a construction supervisor, told the judges he wanted to call that stool his own because it was the "best seat in the house."

Britny S. Schroeder, 18, a mass communications major at the Essex campus of the Community College of Baltimore County, explained that she was a "lifelong die-hard fan" and giggled as she showed judges her left leg, which sported an Orioles tattoo.

Wearing a pink visor and an orange shirt that read "PICK ME," Megan Cramer, 21, an Anne Arundel County substitute teacher, hoped the attire would give her a slight edge.

According to Monica Barlow, the team's public relations director, in about two weeks those who tried out will know who gets to be an official Orioles ball girl or ball boy - and gets the rights to a stool.

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