Claremont students win back stadium All-Star job


With a little persistence -- and a crowd of city officials behind her -- a teacher at a school for the developmentally disabled won back the job of passing out major league All-Star ballots at Orioles' games for her students.

Students from the Claremont School in Northeast Baltimore helped pass out and collect the ballots in the stands at Monday night's game, said Nancy R. Malone, their teacher.

Miss Malone is happy for her kids.

But, she says, the Orioles community relations department is "not too happy with me; let's put it that way."

"But I'm convinced we wouldn't have the job back if we didn't do what we did," she added.

For four seasons, students at the public school on Erdman Avenue had distributed and collected All-Star ballots at Memorial Stadium.

The task inspired pride in the students, who are mentally retarded or have emotional problems, and enabled them to mix more with the general public, Miss Malone said.

But earlier this year, the school found out that the Orioles wanted ushers to take over the job at the new ball park.

Miss Malone, who supervised the students' stadium work, sensed that they were being excluded from the city and team's new stadium, Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

So she took her case to the City Council, the mayor's office, the school system and advocates for the disabled. And all of them sent representatives to the meeting that she arranged with Orioles officials last month to discuss the issue.

The Orioles had at first offered to let the students pack completed ballots in boxes. But Miss Malone thought it demeaning to relegate them to a background role.

"These sort of students are hidden all the time. I wanted them to be integrated," she said. "We were good enough to go through the stands at the other stadium."

The Orioles agreed to let the students participate in an usher-mentor program, Miss Malone said, where students assist ushers in passing and gathering the ballots. And the Orioles raised the amount it pays the school from $100 a game to $200.

Julie Wagner, the Orioles' community relations director, said the Orioles decided to switch the ballot handling job to the ushers after some volunteer groups failed to show up for some games. But the Orioles had said all along they wanted to keep the Claremont students involved in some way.

With more ushers available to do the job, the Orioles decided to have Claremont students team up with them in the work, Ms. Wagner said. "I think it's a win-win."

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