In each of the past four springs, Annapolis schoolteacher Kelly Rampmeyer has come up short in her attempt to join the team of six Orioles ballboys and ballgirls.
But buoyed by the optimism that carried the Orioles on a surprise playoff run last season, the 28-year-old returned to Camden Yards for a fifth straight tryout Saturday with hopes that she could be part of this year's magic.
"This would be the best job ever," said Rampmeyer, one of 87 who tried out. "I tried out even when they weren't good. I'm a loyal fan."
This year's tryout had more participants than in past years, team officials said, a turnout buoyed by Saturday's sunshine and the team's promotion on social media. The top candidates will be asked back for a second audition, with the six winners selected by Opening Day, April 5.
Former Orioles catcher Chris Hoiles, Mix 106.5's Reagan Warfield, and Lite 101.9's Greg Carpenter judged the tryout. Each candidate told the panel why he or she wanted the job, led a "charge" chant, and fielded ground balls down the foul line.
Before the candidates emerged from the clubhouse, Hoiles said the panel would be looking for fielding skills, communication skills and enthusiasm from the participants — though hustle ranked first in his mind.
"I've seen one almost go into the stands for a line drive," Hoiles said. "That's pretty impressive. I want to see them get dirty."
The afternoon's first candidate, Mike Kane, 25, of Chesapeake Beach gave Hoiles just what he was looking for. The rubber warning track at Camden Yards was torn up during the offseason, and the gravel beneath it was still exposed Saturday.
One of the first balls hit toward Kane veered into the gravel and, without hesitation, he stomped through the stones. Hoiles turned and nodded in approval to his fellow judges.
Robert Pollock, 50, of Dundalk received an ovation from the small crowd when he returned to his feet after a tumble on the outfield grass. Pollock, whose prosthetic leg is painted with the Orioles logo, said he attends about 40 games each year and couldn't pass up the opportunity to get out and field grounders at Camden Yards.
John Eubank IV, 24, who lives in Severn, said it was an "awesome experience to get out on the field and field a baseball."
If selected for the job, Eubank said, he'd value the opportunity to interact with fellow fans.
Towson University junior Cassey Rogers, 20, tried out just to cross it off her bucket list, but said if selected, she looks forward to giving away the foul balls and making young fans happy.
"It's like the highlight of the game for them," she said.
Some, like Bekah Waltemeyer, 18, of Towson were there simply for the fun of it.
Regardless of what brought them out, each candidate walked away with hopes for a memorable summer job.
"I'm not working, and I figured it'd be fun and I'd get to go to games," said Judy Gundell, 61, of Towson. "What could be more fun than that?"Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun