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Suns-Oriolelanders game to spotlight local amateur baseball players


Now I know a lot of you have really missed me the last couple of weeks and I want to share a few things with you from my vacation, but let me first give you some news on the upcoming 13th annual Anne Arundel County Suns-Oriolelanders All-Star baseball game.

The sandlot all-star doubleheader pits a team hand-picked by Baltimore Orioles scouting supervisor Jim Gilbert against the Suns, which gathers many of Anne Arundel County's best amateur players on one team. The doubleheader is set for 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 6, at Joe Cannon Stadium in Harmans.

Cannon Stadium is also the site for the tryouts for the Suns team. The tryout will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday with Thursday the rain date. Additional workouts are likely and will be announced at Wednesday's tryout.

All Anne Arundel County players ages 15 to 21 are eligible to try out. To be eligible, a player need only reside in Anne Arundel County or play for a county high school, college or summer team.

High school players and junior college players (Anne Arundel Community College, for example),are eligible, but those attending four-year universities that conduct a fall program are not permitted to try out under NCAA rules.

Candidates should be in uniform and bring their own equipment, particularly the catchers. If possible bring your own helmet.

Any player interested in playing but who can't make it to the first tryout because of a conflict with a fall high school sports team schedule or other legitimate reason should give me a call on my 24-Hour Sportsline, 647-2499.

This year the Arundel Suns will play the Oriolelanders in a twin bill for the first time. The Oriolelanders took a well-played 3-1 thriller last year at Cannon Stadium for an 8-4 lead in the series that began in 1980.

* Now let me tell you a little about my vacation, when I traveled with the Kazmarek Little Orioles youth baseball team team to the Continental Amateur Baseball Association 14-and-under World Series in Dublin, Ohio.

Dublin is a scenic little town near Columbus, Ohio and the old stomping grounds of Anne Arundel Amateur Baseball Association president Lew Holmes.

What amazed me most was the town's youth baseball complex of nine enclosed baseball diamonds (one with lights) on 75 acres of land with a pavilion (with tent), huge parking lot and plenty of additional open space for youth soccer and football.

There is nothing like it in Anne Arundel County. Joe Cannon Stadium in Harmans is something to be very proud of, but I saw two stadiums more than comparable to Cannon within just a couple miles of Avery Park.

Hilliard High School boasts an incredible athletic facility that includes an indoor arena, football stadium and a baseball stadium that tournament directors Dave Jordan and Jim Link accurately called "the best baseball facility in central Ohio."

A few miles away sits old Hilliard High, now a middle school. One day looking for a field to take some extra batting practice, we stumbled on Hilliard Middle and thought we were in a major league park.

The "old" stadium is every bit as good as Cannon with gorgeous green grass that rivals Chartwell Country Club here. With its fences painted a fresh, royal blue, the park looked almost gift-wrapped.

Amazingly enough, we found out that the "old" stadium is 20 years old. We can only hope that Cannon looks as good 20 years from now.

I can only think of Holmes' futile pleas over the last year to turn a small portion of the vast open space at Fort Meade into a baseball/softball complex and how those pleas fell on deaf ears.

Fact of the matter is, we have outgrown Cannon Stadium already. It opened its doors September 1990 and already we need another comparable facility.

With the Chesapeake Seniors League growing rapidly, not to mention the fall season that keeps getting bigger, Anne Arundel County is experiencing a baseball boom.

I know with the economy being what it is it's not realistic to think the county could build a nine-diamond complex such as Avery Park in Dublin. We can only hope that when things get better and future projects hit the drawing board again that a huge complex to house youth baseball and softball will be considered.

Or at least, maybe money can be allocated to improve the many suffering dirt diamonds in the county. Improved playing fields are definitely in order in Anne Arundel.

I admit to being overcome with envy at the sight of what they have in that small town of Dublin, but we do have a couple things on them.

Often times, it takes a visit to other parts of the country to realize how good and professional the county umpires are. The Anne Arundel group run by Jack Kramp has no peers.

As well-organized and administered a tournament as it was in Dublin, the umpiring left a lot to be desired. And that's not sour grapes, because the Little Orioles made it to the championship round, finished seventh among 21 teams from all over the nation. They came within a heart-breaking 6-5 loss in 10 innings to the Columbus Cobras of making the final four.

The Little Orioles had beaten the Cobras, 4-1, earlier in the tournament, but the second time around may have been served some good, old-fashioned home cooking.

But that's baseball. It was one of those nights.

I guess I should have known what was in store when the plate umpire bragged to me about being from Hagerstown and told me that I resembled Earl Weaver in uniform. Later in the seventh inning when he asked me to leave early, I knew what he meant when he asked me before the game if I was as patient as Earl.

My son, Mike, got severely spiked and took 16 stitches in his left forearm.

The first eight innings were played on one field, the final two on another with lights rather than suspending it until the morning.

And a Columbus player homered in the top of the ninth barely over the 300-foot sign on the lighted field. The distance to center on the other field was 320.

The winning run was set up by a ball lost above the lights, and even a man's attempts to put a curse on the Cobras failed. The man, who was with the team from Puerto Rico that eliminated the Little Orioles the next day, 5-2, was hilarious.

Dressed in a tank top, shorts and a towel dangling over the long, braided locks flowing down his neck, he frantically beat a white towel into the dirt after shouting a curse at the Cobras. His verbal barrage and towel-flailing that produced mini tornadoes in the dirt didn't get the job done.

But what was a real shame was that the tournament got no publicity.

Despite the fact that teams from Puerto Rico and 18 states - including Hawaii, Texas and New York -- had invaded Dublin, the Columbus Dispatch saw no need to cover it.

It sure is great to be back home where the calls are fair and people write about local sports even if the fields aren't up to those in Dublin.

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