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Claremont students are back at the ballpark again


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

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.

Their presence in the stands was the result of a meeting with Orioles officials last month and an outpouring of support that Miss Malone drummed up from city officials and other supporters of the school.

Miss Malone is happy for her kids. But, she said, the Orioles community relations department is "not too happy with me; let's put it that way."

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

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 orhave 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 Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Miss Malone, who supervised the students' stadium work, sensed that they were being excluded from what she called the upscale "new Washington image" of the new ballpark.

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 a meeting 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.

The school also had been paid $100 a game for the work, she said, and has devoted the money to starting new activities.

The Orioles agreed to let the students participate in an usher-mentor program, Miss Malone said. And the Orioles raised the amount the team pays the school from $100 a game to $200 a game.

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 in previous years. She did not single out any particular group, though Miss Malone says the students kept their commitments.

The Orioles had said all along they wanted to keep the Claremont students involved in some way, Ms. Wagner said. With more ushers available to do the job, the Orioles decided to have Claremont students team up with them in the work. "I think it's a win-win," she said.

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