Diane and Jerry Wolfe, a couple from Lansdowne, shopped for gear in one of the shops. Diane Wolfe had her eye on a canvas Orioles tote. Her own bag was already bulging with a new sweatshirt, ponytail holders made of orange ribbon and a foam finger to wave during the game.

The husband and wife both called off work for the game and were treating it like the tiniest of vacations — free, fun and spendy.

"We're taking it all in," Diane Wolfe said. "It's just a really good time."

Back at Vitrano's seat, while fans were going wild for one play or another, he was sitting placidly, hands folded on his lap. As he takes in the game, he's anything but animated. He's a scientist, really, watching and studying, thinking and analyzing.

When Manny Machado stepped up to bat, Vitrano was in the moment but also remembering other great young players: Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson, Cal Ripken Jr.

"There's so much to see," he said, "and so much to look back on."

Vitrano grew up in Little Italy, worshipping Joe DiMaggio and playing the game with balls he and his pals would fish out of the Jones Falls after a good rain. No slouch on the diamond, the lanky boy played shortstop and center field for Baltimore's youth leagues, and when he enrolled at the Johns Hopkins University, he played varsity ball, too.

As a young man, Vitrano and a couple of buddies tried out for a Brooklyn Dodgers farm team on a lark one year — and made it. But the $100 a month the club offered seemed skimpy to Vitrano, who at the time was making $30 a week working for his family's produce business.

When he married his wife, Franny, in February 1954, their honeymoon just happened to be in Florida, where they could catch spring training.

"That," she says with a smile, "is when I got a clue."

She'd married a baseball lover. And how.

At home, Vitrano, father of seven and grandfather of nine, has a jar of dirt from Memorial Stadium. He's got the brass number that used to be on his old seat there — 16 — framed and displayed on a shelf.

He loves the game for what it was and for what it is. He misses the nickel hot dogs and the pre-JumboTron days, when he'd bring a transistor radio to games to complement what he saw with the play-by-play. But he also relishes some modern advances — the speed guns that measure a pitch and elaborate preseason scouting reports.

He hopes to stick around to see what's to come.

"It's a great game and it's always different," he said. "The players are different. The umpires are different. Everything about it. You can't predict what's going to happen, and you never know who's going to win until it's over."

jill.rosen@baltsun.com

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