With healthy attitude and body to match, this could be year for Birds' McDonald


Every scout in baseball can't be wrong. One of these days the Orioles' Ben McDonald is going to be a big winner -- and that day may be at hand.

The 6-foot-7 McDonald, still only 24 years old, had a 6-8 record last year. The year before, splitting time between here and the minors, he was 8-5 with the O's.

But as Big Ben goes through his offseason training regimen at Memorial Stadium these days he has renewed confidence. The primary reason: he's healthy.

"Last year I had a bad elbow and a bad shoulder," McDonald says as he lies on his stomach in Richie Bancells' training room, lifting 5-pound "cuff weights" (weights in a cuff worn at the wrist). "The elbow I got from throwing, but I hurt the shoulder trying to make a circus catch they told me not to make.

"I'm finished my shoulder workout for the day and now I'm doing my elbow exercises. I feel good. Those injuries are behind me.

"I feel better going into this season. Getting a head start helps. I've been up here three weeks, doing some throwing with these guys. I didn't do that last year."

Don't forget, McDonald was the first Oriole ever to win his first five major-league starts and his first six decisions.

That takes talent, but even talent like McDonald's is not of much use to a pitcher unless he's healthy.

Says McDonald: "I'm eager to get to spring training. I'm ready to go."

Orioles pitchers and catchers report to Sarasota, Fla., Feb. 20 -- two weeks from Wednesday.

* It shouldn't be a big deal when two teams from different conferences with identical 7-11 records meet in basketball, but it'll be a big deal to both when Towson State plays at Loyola at 7:30 tonight.

In a disappointing season, both teams are starting to play well. Towson has won three in a row (including a 96-56 rout of Brooklyn College Saturday) and Loyola (a 73-63 winner over St. Peter's the same afternoon) will be going for its third straight.

The neighborhood rivalry thing always makes Towson-Loyola special despite the records.

"It's always a good game," says Towson coach Terry Truax. "I can't remember any blowouts. The two programs are similar. Home court doesn't seem to make much difference. We've won there. They've won at our place.

"I've never worried much about early-season records. If I did we wouldn't schedule teams like North Carolina and Tennessee. Our 10-game road trip is partly my fault for scheduling the games, but it doesn't do any good to play at home if the students are not on campus.

"I saw Loyola play Navy [Navy won, 75-73]. Loyola's having a rough year, but I don't feel sorry for them. They've got some talent."

* Speaking of Navy, the Middies have lost six in a row. Their record is 4-14. Navy's football team was 1-10. It must be difficult to produce revenue when you're a combined 5-24 in the two revenue-producing sports.

* David Warfield, a former Washington & Lee lacrosse star, points out that Teddy Bauer (first team All-America 1972-74) will become the first W & L player ever to go in the Lacrosse Hall of Fame when he is admitted at the shrine's annual banquet Saturday at the Sheraton Towson. Warfield predicts Skip Lichtfuss, now the Mount Washington coach, will be the next W & L man to make the Hall of Fame.

Bauer's fellow honorees will be the late Don Albertson, Navy; Mike French, Cornell; Rick Kowalchuk, Johns Hopkins; Roy Simmons Jr., Syracuse; and Frank Urso, Maryland.

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