The magnitude of what was about to happen to Cole Jarrett dawned on him when he stepped into the dugout Tuesday.
“I’m playing at Camden Yards,” the Boys’ Latin outfielder said he realized. “I’m batting leadoff. This is the coolest thing I’ve ever done.”
The city’s top baseball players took the field at Camden Yards while the Orioles were away for the seventh President’s Cup, an all-star game pitting the best of Baltimore’s private-school standouts against its top public-school performers.
Jarrett and 19 other Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association ballplayers donned black and purple jerseys with “MIAA” emblazoned across the front and back. Across the diamond, leaning against the rail of the first base dugout, were another 21 graduated seniors wearing orange with black “BCPS” lettering, for Baltimore City Public Schools. Only the caps of their high school team separated one teammate from another.
The MIAA All-Stars downed the BCPS All-Stars, 11-0, but it wasn’t so much the score as the spirit of the game that mattered.
“Baseball has been a lost sport in the city of Baltimore,” said Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, who began the annual game in 2011. “Once, you could find kids playing on fields all around the city, but now the only fields are for established leagues.”
Last year’s President’s Cup was cancelled because of violations of Maryland Public Secondary School Athletic Association regulations. In response, Young tweaked the all-star format so that only graduating seniors who had exhausted their MPSSAA eligibility could play.
“This game is about bringing kids together to bond and share experiences,” he said.
For coaches of both teams, the Camden Yards experience was just as exhilarating.
“Friendship,” said MIAA All-Stars and St. John’s Catholic Prep coach Omar Enriquez. “These kids are now friends for life.”
The MIAA All-Stars rolled to the trophy with 11 runs on 11 hits while keeping the BCPS All-Stars hitless. Jarrett set the tone with a leadoff triple in the first, and St. John’s Catholic Prep’s AJ Javitt followed with a double.
After the two teams traded three scoreless innings, the MIAA All-Stars cracked the game open in the top of the fifth, plating six runs on a single, three doubles and a triple. They logged another three runs in the sixth to cap the scoring.
“We could have done better,” Douglass pitcher-shortstop Tyler Louis said. “But after all of it, we did what we did. It still feels like a dream to me.”
When Louis climbed the mound to start for the BCPS All-Stars, images of major league greats flashed before him.
“Nolan Ryan, all those pitchers before me,” he said. “It’s amazing.”
Before the game, Isaac Spokes, a pitcher-outfielder from Poly who secured Most Outstanding Player honors for the BCPS All-Stars, had to balance his unfolding dream with the seven innings he still had to play.
“It’s the same as a regular game, but the atmosphere is so different,” Spokes said.
Each player exited the on-deck circle to a walk-up song. Scoreboard videos that play during actual Orioles games still entertained the crowd in between innings. Children shouted, “Right crab!” during the Old Bay Crab Shuffle.
“It inspires a different level of play,” said Spokes, who shut down the MIAA All-Stars in the third and fourth inning and returned in the fifth to retire the final batter with a strikeout and stem the bleeding.
Ultimately, the final score didn’t matter as much to the players. Opponents-turned-friends crossed team lines to trade phone numbers and take photos.
“These are top players from our league,” said Javitt, who will play for Harford Community College next season. “We got along well and we got the win.”