BRADENTON, Fla. — Longtime Orioles "ballboy" and umpire attendant Ernie Tyler has made his decision. He will leave the field permanently at the request of his family.
Don't misunderstand. Tyler, who has been a fixture near the Orioles dugout for the past 50 years, is not retiring. He will continue to manage the umpires' room and prepare the balls for each game.
Tyler's status had been a source of disagreement with his children -- particularly Orioles clubhouse managers Jim and Fred Tyler -- who persuaded him to stay off the field last year after he underwent hernia surgery. He was hoping to resume his on-field duties on Opening Day this year, and told The Baltimore Sun earlier this week that he was leaning in that direction in spite of the objections of his family.
"Everything is OK now," Tyler said. "There was never really any anger there, just disappointment, but I'm OK. ... The girls are a little happier, too, and I'm sure that my wife is going to be happier that I'm at least going to come home once in a while. This is a good thing."
Tyler began his half-century run as the Orioles' "ballboy" at the start of the 1960 season and didn't miss a home game until he ended his streak of 3,769 consecutive games to attend the induction of Cal Ripken Jr. into the baseball Hall of Fame in 2007.
"I wouldn't have missed that for anything," he said, "but I had to think about it for a few seconds."
Orioles hitting coach Terry Crowley also played a role in Tyler's decision to get off the field before a wicked foul ball took up the debate.
"Terry and I chatted a couple of weeks ago, and he said: 'I'm just about as scared as I could be here, you know, and I don't suggest you come running back out here again. You've got your chance, now sit down.' And I did."
It was hard to argue the logic. Tyler will be 86 next month, and he is in terrific health for his age. The kids just want to keep it that way.
"I see their point really well now," he said. "I would occasionally, after the game, be a little worn out -- especially after the doubleheaders. The way it is now, I'm happy because I sit and do the balls and then I have a chance to go walking around and taking a look at everything else. There are plenty of things going on in the ballpark that I didn't know about before."
Brian Roberts, who has been sidelined after coming down with severe stomach discomfort, will be re-evaluated Thursday before resuming the rehabilitation program for his sore lower back. He said he's still not concerned about the possibility of missing Opening Day but is not going to rush back into action this spring and possibly put the season opener at risk.
"It's not ideal at this point," he said, "but I'm not concerned about missing Opening Day yet. What is today? The 10th? We've still got 3 1/2 weeks, so I'm not in panic mode or anything. ... I don't have timetable. My biggest thing is, I don't really care, I'd rather be fully healthy and get 15 at-bats than try to push it and get 30 at-bats and start off with anything where you're less than 100 percent."
Pleased with his coverage
Matt Wieters is featured on the cover of this week's issue of Sports Illustrated, which hit newsstands Wednesday. And, despite the famous SI jinx, he's pretty happy with how the cover turned out.
"It's a pretty good one," Wieters said. "It's tough making me look good, so that's photographer is pretty good."
Yes, he is. The photographer was Walter Iooss Jr., one of the most famous magazine photographers in the world.
Around the horn
Infielder Justin Turner, who has been sidelined with a bruised foot, started at second base Wednesday night. ... Miguel Tejada took some time out to sit with former Orioles vice president Jim Beattie before the game. Beattie, now scouting for the Toronto Blue Jays, and Mike Flanagan signed Tejada to a six-year, $72 million deal before the 2004 season. ... Manager Dave Trembley confirmed that he'll get Ty Wigginton some playing time at second base, just in case Roberts is delayed beyond Opening Day.