Cleveland Indians pitcher Bob Ojeda wasn't in Baltimore last night, but he delivered a moving message of thanks to Orioles fans on the video message board.
Ojeda, the lone survivor of the boating accident that claimed the lives of teammates Steve Olin and Tim Crews during spring training in Florida, made his first competitive appearance since the accident on Aug. 7 at Camden Yards and got a lengthy standing ovation from the sellout crowd.
This week, Ojeda responded in kind, sending an open letter to the fans of Baltimore to thank them for helping him through a very difficult evening. The letter was received by the Orioles public relations department and broadcast on the video scoreboard in the middle of the fifth inning.
"This letter is not only overdue but it simply cannot capture what the night of Saturday, Aug. 7, meant to me," Ojeda wrote. "I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation for the reception that you gave me when I took the mound. I was overwhelmed by the warmth and compassion that greeted me as I entered the field.
"I will tell you that it was the longest and most difficult walk of my life and without your help I would not have made it. On behalf of Steve, Tim and our families, I thank you for your ovation. Your city and ballpark will forever hold a special place in my heart. Thank you again. Bobby Ojeda. P.S. -- Never Quit."
Ojeda was not the only one to applaud Orioles fans for their classy ovation. Indians manager Mike Hargrove and his wife, Sharon, also sent a note of thanks.
"A standing ovation would have been a given at home but to
have received one on the road is so remarkable," the letter said in part. "Thanks for recognizing the importance and impact of this big step in his life. It meant a lot to all of us. Thanks for caring."
Baltimore played a dual role in Ojeda's comeback. He had come to town before his first pitching appearance to seek psychological help for post-traumatic stress.
"I couldn't thank all the people individually, but I wanted to let them know what that meant to me," Ojeda told the Akron Beacon-Journal after the Indians game in Toronto yesterday. "I sent the letter to let them know that what they did for all of us [himself and families of Crews and Olin], they touched me and they touched the families. That's the only way I know how to reach at least a few of them. That particular night was the toughest night of my life, I hope ever."
Hargrove added yesterday: "When Bobby came in the game and got the standing ovation, those fans showed the compassion of the true baseball fans of America."
Rehab assignments set
The return of injured Orioles Leo Gomez and Jeffrey Hammonds appears within sight. Gomez will start an injury rehabilitation assignment with the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings tomorrow and Hammonds will join the Double-A Bowie Baysox on Saturday in Albany, N.Y.
Normally, a rehab assignment could last weeks, but the minor-league season will end in little more than a week. So it appears likely both players will be back in action at the major-league level soon after the roster limit rises to 40 on Sept. 1.
Gomez has been out for more than six weeks because of a wrist injury that required surgery. Hammonds has been sidelined for three weeks with a herniated disk in his neck.
Fall League fodder
Orioles coach Davey Lopes will take six Orioles prospects with him when he goes west this fall to manage in the Arizona Fall League. Catcher Gregg Zaun, first baseman Paul Carey, outfielder Jim Wawruck and pitchers Jeff Williams, John O'Donoghue and Mike Oquist will play under Lopes for the Tucson Javalinas.
Anderson sits one out
Leadoff man Brady Anderson was out of the starting lineup last night, but not because of the stiff neck that sidelined him earlier in the week. Anderson was out because he is 2-for-25 lifetime (.080 average, 10 strikeouts) against Angels left-hander Mark Langston.