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Lessons were there for the learning yesterday afternoon at the 3rd Annual Elrod Hendricks Invitational Baseball Tournament luncheon at St. Frances. Some were about baseball, others were about life.

One of the most important was that Hendricks, the Orioles' late coach and former player, knew the secret to a happy life.

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"He had a wonderful perspective," said his brother-in-law Michael Johnson. "He believed what was important went beyond the uniform you wore, the job you had or the money you made. What he used as a barometer was how, in fact, you treat people. He believed winning went beyond your skill set, that it came down to your ability to be a teammate, to your willingness to give up yourself for the other guy.

"Ellie gave more of himself than anyone I've known. And I think he would be proud to have this tournament named after him."

This is the third year of the tournament, which this year features last year's champion Chapelgate Christian, Arlington Baptist, Mt. Carmel and host St. Frances. But it is the first year of the luncheon and the first year Hendricks' widow, Merle Hendricks, and Johnson were present to acknowledge the tournament.

"I know all the good things Elrod did," said Merle Hendricks, who was married to the former Oriole catcher for just short of 37 years. "But I'm very honored that they think so much of him to name this tournament after him. I think he'd be delighted. He was like a little kid at home. You never knew what he was going to do. Baseball was always his passion. It was his No. 1 love. I was No. 2 and I was always OK with that."

Pete Gilbert, a sportscaster for WBAL, who emceed the event, related a story from the 1979 World Series, when he was a child going to Game 7 with his dad.

"We were sitting in the left field bleachers and I had my Eddie Murray T-shirt on," said Gilbert. "In the fourth inning this NBC cameraman motioned to me to come down to the fence. Then he called to Ellie, who was in the bullpen, to come over and they asked him if he could pick me up and hang me over the wall for a camera shot when they were going to commercial.

"And Elrod Hendricks hangs me over the wall and he's high-fiving in the middle of Game 7 of the World Series, a pretty important time, and he's just having fun. Twenty-five years later, when I came back to work in Baltimore, I saw him and asked if he remembered that moment. He said, 'No.' For me, it was such a big deal, but he didn't remember because he did those kinds of things for kids everyday."

In the audience yesterday were young baseball players who had heard Hendricks' name but who had never seen him play or coach.

"I knew he played for the Orioles," said Chapelgate freshman Jordan Lawrence, 14, a catcher and second baseman. "But I didn't know anything more about him. But it sounds like he was a great man and loved kids, had fun and loved the game of baseball. It's cool, because now all the focus is on the game and steroids."

This was a day – and will be a weekend – to celebrate the joy that can come from baseball.

"It may seem like these days of being on a team will go on forever," said Gilbert. "They won't. Enjoy the moments of being a teammate and sacrificing for a teammate. Step back and drink it in."

The message was, be a little bit like Elrod Hendricks and look for ways to embrace life.

"Elrod always believed it's not what you say to people or what you do, it's how you make them feel after they leave you that counts," said Johnson.

The tournament was scheduled to begin today at Joe Cannon Stadium in Anne Arundel County with Arlington Baptist facing Mount Carmel at 4 p.m. Game 2 features St. Frances against 2008 winner Chapelgate Christian at 7. The two losing teams play a consolation game tomorrow at 9 a.m., followed by the championship game at noon.

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