Jimmy Brooks, during more than 20 years in law enforcement, has chased down bad dudes as a narcotics officer. The 1980 Laurel High graduate has been in high-stakes hostage situations and worked on K-9 patrols.
But the North Laurel resident did something on April 12, 1982 that would also give many grown men, and women, a real rush: he hit a home run against the Baltimore Orioles.
Brooks was in his third season as a left fielder on the University of Maryland baseball team on that beautiful weekday afternoon 30 years ago when the Terps hosted a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition game against the Orioles at Shipley Field on the College Park campus.
The Orioles used two minor-league pitchers against the Terps and Brooks recalls that his homer came against the second of the two hurlers.
"I hit it out to right field or right-center," said Brooks, a left-handed hitter. "It was just one of those opportunities to measure yourself against pro athletes."
The home run was a three-run shot in the bottom of the seventh inning that came against Charles Guinn, who would win eight games that season in the minors for Class A Hagerstown. It was the only hit in four at-bats that day for Brooks.
"He was one of the fastest players (on the team) in the four years I was there," Bowie resident Bob Zavarick, an infielder for the Terps in 1982, said of Brooks.
One other play that sticks out for Brooks that day was a fly ball that he caught in left against the Orioles. Al Bumbry, the speedy outfielder for Baltimore, tagged up from third and scored on the play, Brooks said.
At the time an exhibition game between a Major League team and a college squad was unusual, especially on a college campus. Throw in the fact that the Orioles team that day featured four future Hall of Famers — manager Earl Weaver, first baseman Eddie Murray, pitcher Jim Palmer and a rookie infielder named Cal Ripken Jr. — and one can understand the buzz on campus.
The Orioles had the third-best record in the American League in 1981, a mark of 59-46, but did not make the playoffs in the modified first-half, second-half format devised in the wake of a strike-shortened season. Ripken began his record-breaking consecutive games played streak in May 1982, just a few weeks after playing against the Terps. The Orioles would then win the World Series in 1983 over Philadelphia.
"You are always thinking if you have what it takes to play professionally," said Brooks, who did not play professional baseball after college.
Brooks, a Laurel Police sergeant who is the department's official homeland security liaison, played baseball, basketball and soccer at Laurel High. He looked at colleges such as Southern, Bucknell and High Point but settled on Maryland, where he earned a full baseball scholarship during his freshman season.
He was not the only Laurel High graduate on the Maryland roster in 1982. The other one was fellow 1980 Laurel High grad Dub Daniels, who was also in the Laurel Police Department with Brooks. Daniels was a first baseman for the Terps in 1982 and still lives in the Laurel area, according to Brooks. Daniels could not be reached for comment.
Mark Palumbo, a freshman second baseman for Maryland in 1982, was a Bowie High graduate who grew up as a fan of the Orioles.
"The place was packed. It was very cool. The one thing that surprised me was how big (the Orioles) were; they were thick," said Palumbo, who is now an attorney in Calvert County. His brother, Jeff Palumbo, was recently named the new principal/president for St. Vincent Pallotti High.
The exhibition came about fairly quickly, according to former Maryland assistant coach Frank Kolarek, who helped arrange the game with the Orioles, with the blessing of then Maryland athletic director Dick Dull. Kolarek played in the minor leagues in the Oakland Athletics' organization and was a batting practice pitcher for the Orioles in 1981.
"He was a progressive guy and he let us move forward with the project," Catonsville resident Kolarek said of Dull. "Phil Itzoe, the traveling secretary for the Orioles (who died in 2010), got involved. The wheels started turning."
Brooks, who played four years at Maryland, but did not graduate, has played in recreational baseball leagues since college and coached one of his two sons in Laurel Little League. But his best day on the diamond may have come 30 years ago.
"I was an Orioles' fan and that was awesome. To play against an Al Bumbry was pretty good," he said.