Hendricks is welcome O's anchor


In a sport with constant change, the Orioles' Elrod Hendricks is the verysoul of stability.

Throughout the majors there are new players, new managers, new leaguealignments, even new teams. Two expansion franchises were added during thestrike.

Look at the newness of the Orioles:

The manager (Phil Regan) is in his first year.

Pete Angelos and his partners have owned the club less than two years. Theplayer roster is constantly altered.

All of Regan's coaches are new this year except one -- Hendricks. Elrod isin his 27th season in an Orioles uniform, his 18th straight as the club'sbullpen catcher.

If you don't think that's a long time, consider: Brooks Robinson spentonly 21 seasons in an Orioles uniform.

Ellie came to the Orioles in 1968, when they were on the verge of winningthree straight pennants ('69-'71), and he is still with them now as theystruggle to avoid last place in the American League East.

At 9 a.m. yesterday, with the Orioles just back from a disastrous roadtrip, Hendricks opened the baseball camp he and Mike McMillan have run on thebeautiful McDonogh School campus for 14 years.

Two of Elrod's sons -- Ryan and Ian -- are McDonogh graduates. Ryan isplaying ball at Huntington, W.Va. Ian is a student-athlete at St. AndrewsCollege in North Carolina.

Make no mistake about it -- Elrod Hendricks is entrenched here.

Naturally some of the parents delivering campers asked about thestruggling Orioles.

What was wrong? L How could the club have lost six straight on that road trip?

How could Mike Mussina have given up six runs while facing only tenhitters?

"We've made too many changes," Hendricks said. "It's good to make maybefive changes a year, but 12 changes out of 25 players is too much."

Not that Hendricks thinks the Orioles should stand pat.

"I see you got rid of Andy Van Slyke," a camp mother told him. "I likedAndy because he was more my age."

"We didn't get rid of him," Elrod said. "He was traded to Philadelphia.Now we need to make about three more changes.

"Our trouble is, we have some young players coming up the hill who are notsure they belong here, and we have some coming down the hill who aren't surethey still belong up here. NTC "Some of our best pitchers -- the ones we look to for help -- arelooking for help themselves."

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 hecouldn'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 himif he had a sore arm. He said no, he just couldn't get comfortable on thatmound. 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 seasonedreliever like Mark Williamson was bound to be missed. Which led Easton's KittySchneider to ask: "Why'd we get rid of Lee Smith?"

"I'd like to have those 16 saves," Hendricks told her, "but when you paydoctors a lot of money to examine a man and they tell you because of his ageand 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 thiscommunity.

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 continuesto come to the camp every year on opening day to renew acquaintances. It'sbecome a tradition.

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

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

"No," said Elrod. "Cal is Cal, no matter what. He just comes to play, dayafter 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 takespeople's minds off the way they're playing."

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

"The reason my son is here," said Bob Moran Sr., "is we took him toElrod's home for instruction and he learned more in one hour than he's learnedfrom all the camps he's been to, including the one at Princeton. I've neverseen 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 thedining hall.

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

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

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

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