Like Mussina?

"Yeah," said Hendricks. "The funny thing about Mike Sunday in Detroit, when he was warming up he had the best stuff he's had all year. Then he couldn't get anybody out."

"Who warmed him up?" Elrod was asked.

"I did!" said the 54-year-old Hendricks. "After Mike came out, I asked him if he had a sore arm. He said no, he just couldn't get comfortable on that mound. He couldn't find a good hole to put his toe in."

Elrod was saying the club's bullpen was too young and that a seasoned reliever like Mark Williamson was bound to be missed. Which led Easton's Kitty Schneider to ask: "Why'd we get rid of Lee Smith?"

"I'd like to have those 16 saves," Hendricks told her, "but when you pay doctors a lot of money to examine a man and they tell you because of his age and his condition he might last a half-season, what are you going to do?"

Kitty Schneider is an example of the grip Elrod Hendricks has on this community.

Fourteen summers ago -- Elrod's first at McDonogh -- Kitty's son, James, was a camper.

Today James is 27 years old and working for a living, but Kitty continues to come to the camp every year on opening day to renew acquaintances. It's become a tradition.

"I left Easton at 7 this morning," she said. "I just like to come and see Elrod and all these kids on their first day of baseball camp."

Someone asked Hendricks if he thought Cal Ripken's streak was a distraction.

"No," said Elrod. "Cal is Cal, no matter what. He just comes to play, day after day, year after year. He's the same all the time, very even.

"The streak might be a good thing for the rest of the team. It takes people's minds off the way they're playing."

As the last campers arrived, Elrod circulated. He greeted one of the youngest, 7-year-old Dustin Harmon, who wants to learn to pitch, and one of the older ones, 16-year-old Bob Moran.

"The reason my son is here," said Bob Moran Sr., "is we took him to Elrod's home for instruction and he learned more in one hour than he's learned from all the camps he's been to, including the one at Princeton. I've never seen anyone teach the game so well and in such a relaxed way as Elrod does."

Now it was time for Hendricks to address the 120 campers assembled in the dining hall.

"I'm the bad guy," Elrod started off. "I'm the one who goes around yelling at you when things don't go right.

"That doesn't mean you should be afraid to make a mistake. They've been playing baseball for 125 years and they're still looking for the perfect player. We just want you to come out of this camp better than you came in, but we can't teach you anything if you don't want to learn."

Another summer, another camp, another Orioles season. In the changing sea that baseball has become, Elrod Hendricks is a welcome anchor.