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The Baltimore Sun

Catonsville and Lansdowne residents at home at Oriole Park

The Baltimore Orioles may have lost more games (35) than they've won (29) when playing before the home fans at Oriole Park at Camden Yards this season.

But that lack of success, especially compared with the team's 17-37 record away from home this season, hasn't diminished the enthusiasm four young workers have for their jobs at the ballpark this summer.

Catonsville residents Brian Desrosiers, Montray McCray and Gregory Wright and Lansdowne resident Nicholas Fenwick remain devoted Orioles fans, especially since they get to watch nearly every home game without having to buy a ticket.

"I just love being at Camden Yards. I have always liked the Orioles," said Brian, 16, a student at Mount Saint Joseph High School in his second season on the tarp crew at Oriole Park. "It's kind of awesome because you basically get paid to watch the Orioles play."

"I was an Orioles fan and (am) just as much now," said Wright, 19, a Catonsville High graduate and veteran of five seasons. "When people ask me what I do when I go to work, I just tell them I go and watch baseball."

"Before this job, to tell the truth, I never watched baseball," said McCray, 17, a Woodlawn High graduate now a student at Bowie State University. "I've grown to like it a lot since I've been here last year. I'm starting to learn the game more."

Fenwick, 19, a student at the Community College of Baltimore County, admitted he is not as interested in baseball as when he was younger and has even stopped playing the game.

Still, the second-year veteran loves his summer job, even if he has had to work through rain falling so hard that it nearly floods the dugouts.

"It seemed like, for me, it would be a once in a lifetime chance to get an offer to work here," Fenwick said about why he applied for the position while a student at Lansdowne High School. "I will continue this job every summer."

After an interview, the job was his.

"They all have their different personalities, but they really do bring the entire crew together," Nicole Sherry said about the leadership of the four. "They bring a lot of life to the tarp crew."

Sherry has been the Orioles' head groundskeeper for five seasons.

Wright said their duties aren't limited to unrolling the 28,900-square-foot tarp that weighs more than a ton.

During the 2009 season, before Desrosiers, Fenwick and McCray joined the crew, Wright participated in many of the 81 tarp pulls at Oriole Park, according to Sherry.

The Orioles play 81 home games each year, Sherry noted, and while many games don't require the field being covered, there have been occasions when the crew has had to do multiple pulls during a games.

This season, Sherry said the rain and wind have tested her 18-person crew, nearly half of whom are new this season.

Going into last weekend's contest, they have had to pull the tarp about three dozen times.

Typically, the crew will unroll the tarp during a game only about 20 times each season, Wright said.

But there many other duties that have to be taken care of, such as dragging the infield to make it smooth, taking down batting practice equipment and running simple errands for the players, like fetching water for the bullpen.

"The list of things is endless that we do," said Wright, a student atTowson University.

The crew shows up two hours before game time, Fenwick said, and ensures that the field looks its best by picking up any trash that may have blown onto the field.

The job is as much about the players' health as it is the aesthetics of the field, though.

The crew usually stays 30 minutes after the game ends, Desrosiers said, but that becomes longer on nights when the Orioles shoot off fireworks at the end of the game.

"It's bad because you have a bunch of pieces of debris in the outfield," said Desrosiers, a student at Mount St. Joseph High School. "It's very demanding, picking up every single piece, making sure there's nothing laying out there that a player could hurt themselves while running for a ball."

Each of the crew members smiled as they talked about the players that they have met.

All four named Orioles All-Star centerfielder Adam Jones as one of their favorite Orioles.

Even when a team like the rival New York Yankees comes to Camden Yards, Desrosiers and Fenwick can't help but become a little star struck.

"If they come up and start talking to me, I'd probably start shaking or fiddling my fingers," said Fenwick, 19. "I'm not used to being around big star people."

"I really don't like the Yankees too much," Desrosiers said. "But you got to admit when you see (pitcher) Mariano Rivera walking past you, it's a little crazy."

For McCray and Wright, interacting with the players is part of the job.

"I wouldn't call it star struck," McCray said. "I kind of like to converse with them a little bit, just to say I talked to Adam Jones or (outfielder) Nick Markakis."

"It's one of the things where most of the guys are regular guys," Wright said. "I guess it's kind of cool if you get to have a couple of words with them."

Not only do the tarp crew members have a chance to get close to high-profile athletes, they also have their own moments of fame when television cameras focus on the crew as rain starts to fall.

Many would relish such an opportunity to be on television.

But the tarp crew tries to keep a low-profile, well aware that one mistake can become a national spectacle.

A game-delaying rainstorm during the 2010 season ended up with McCray receiving more attention than he wanted, for example.

As the crew unfurled the plastic that covers the infield, McCray said he fell over the tarp.

The blunder ended up on ESPN, McCray said, earning him the number two spot on SportsCenter's "Not Top 10 Plays of the Week" and number 33 on SportsNation list of best bloopers of the year.

"I was kind of proud. I played football and I never got on ESPN," said McCray, who added he was only nervous on his first day on the job.

A year later, McCray hasn't yet lived his miscue down.

Asked if he was made fun of by his colleagues, McCray said, "They haven't stopped yet."

"It's cool though," he added. "It's funny because it brings the tarp crew together and gives us something to talk about."

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