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The Nose

Field of Dreams

Posted 6/6/2001

When you're making an alternative-newspaper salary, a part-time job is a real good thing to have. And, as big an Orioles fan as the Nose is, what could be better than a part-time job as a Camden Yards ball boy or girl? That's what had us fielding grounders on the sidelines of the storied diamond May 31 as the O's held tryouts for new foul-ball retrievers. We don't know yet if we got the job, but we do know how the experience made us feel: old.

Nearly all of the 100-plus folks vying for the two available positions were in their teens or early 20s--significantly less, ah, mature than ourself. Not that we were surprised, since every ball guy and gal we've seen at the Yard has been a perky youth. Upon our arrival we did spot one of the few middle-aged types in the crowd and asked him if he has ever seen anyone over 25 flagging down foul balls at Oriole Park. "No," he replied. "But I'm retired, and I have nothing else to do."

With that, we were herded down to an auxiliary clubhouse in the bowels of the ballpark to fill out applications, then onto the playing field to show our prowess at scooping up stray foul balls. Half of the crowd was sent to the third-base side to await their turn; the lucky ones, including the Nose, got to sit on the right-field side, in the Orioles dugout. While we admired the view of the pristine field from the home-team perch, a kid next to us echoed our thoughts: The field seems a lot smaller from ground level, and the stands rising above seem much bigger.

As the wait grew long, we got a little nervous. Then again, we thought, if the even-more-ancient-than-us Cal Ripken can still take the field without embarrassing himself too badly, why can't we? And we were right. The Nose handled each grounder cleanly, except for one that took a wild bounce, hit the rolled-up tarp, and caromed into right field. That one was a do-over.

The balls weren't hit very hard, but still, the Nose walked away feeling pretty good about ourself--and a little less old. As we headed down the dugout steps to pick up our belongings, we imagined how Jerry Hairston, the O's vibrant young second baseman, must feel after turning an inning-ending double play. But it was easier to think of Cal.

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