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Some O's decisions are a family matter

THE BALTIMORE SUN

When he has needed help running the Orioles, Peter G. Angelos often has turned to someone he knows well, someone he trusts, someone who even looks a little like him.

His son John.

The younger Mr. Angelos, a 27-year-old law student, doesn't officially work for the team. He isn't on the payroll and doesn't show up in the Orioles offices every day.

But in the nine months since his father took over the team, John P. Angelos has been key to a number of the team's baseball and business decisions.

On the baseball side, John and his younger brother, Lou, 25, also a law student, have been influential advisers to their father, a role that has raised eyebrows among the club's veteran baseball staff, led by general manager Roland Hemond. And without the sway of John and Lou Angelos, the current Orioles roster might have a different look.

Relief ace Lee Smith was a player the sons liked a lot. Their father signed him, despite the initial reluctance of the club's baseball experts.

The sons also encouraged the signings of current Orioles Sid Fernandez and Rafael Palmeiro, a couple of the team's other free-agent pickups last winter.

If it seemed like heady stuff to be assembling the roster for the hometown team, the Angelos boys say they almost felt an obligation to butt in, particularly to find help for the Orioles bullpen.

"As time went on, I couldn't restrain myself," John Angelos says. "And why would anyone restrain themselves from having an opinion when the all-time saves leader [Mr. Smith] was out there and you don't have a closer?"

On business matters, John Angelos has made a similar impression on the Orioles.

His father asked him to assist in re-evaluating the team's policy for distributing free tickets to employees, and John helped fashion a plan that he says will save the team $70,000 this year.

That's just one of the ways that John Angelos has helped his father trim the Orioles budget. Another of his assignments is to study the club's roster of 350 to 400 game-day employees and to help determine whether that many are needed.

But if working for his father has given John Angelos some influence over the Orioles, it hasn't whetted his appetite for publicity about that role. He agreed to speak to a reporter for this article only after mulling an interview request for several weeks. And he expressed reservations about posing for a photograph.

The owner's son explains his reluctance by saying he's just helpingout his father and that any other interpretation unfairly exaggerates his position with the team.

"I don't think either Louie or I want to be thought of as thriving off what my father was able to put together," John Angelos says. "We definitely don't want to be seen as a couple of snotty, spoiled kids who're publicly discussing our roles."

But in the Orioles front office, which Peter Angelos has given a major overhaul, John Angelos is an adviser who clearly has the owner's ear.

A family business

He isn't the only family member Mr. Angelos, 65, has brought into the baseball business, though. Within a few steps of his Camden Yards office, Mr. Angelos has assembled a small family reunion.

His brother-in-law, Lou Kousouris, oversees the club's ticket operations. And the owner's wife, Georgia, sometimes works from the office and is helping to shape the club's new community relations program.

By all accounts, John and Lou Angelos are hard-core baseball fans. They devour the baseball weeklies and, until last year, had their own team -- in Rotisserie baseball.

John says he and his father, who doesn't follow players as closely, talkabout baseball moves a lot. A conversation a week isn't unusual.

But John, a fourth-year evening student at University of Baltimore Law School, plays down the significance of the father-son chats. And he seems particularly skittish when it is suggested that he and his brother are acting as full-fledged members of the Orioles' baseball staff.

"It wouldn't be accurate to say Louie or I have a role in the day-to-day baseball operation," he says.

But as advisers to their father, the Angelos brothers do have input. Peter Angelos says this only makes sense, considering their impressive knowledge of the game.

"They are not fans in the normal sense, as I am," the owner said. "They are very conversant with statistics. They have all the material. These are things they study constantly, and did long before I became involved in the purchase of the Orioles."

What might have seemed perfectly reasonable to Peter Angelos hasn't been easy to swallow for others in the front office: Mr. Hemond and his assistants, Frank Robinson and Doug Melvin.

In the first months of the Angelos regime, they questioned why they seemed to have relatively little influence over the new owner's thinkingon baseball moves. Mr. Angelos seemed to be getting advice from someone else.

Mr. Robinson recalls the first months under the new owner as upsetting: "It seemed this [outside] advice was more of an influence on ownership than what we had to say on certain matters. We weren't able to do our jobs properly."

Even Mr. Hemond, probably baseball's most agreeable general manager, reacted defensively and threatened to resign.

Front-office rift

For months, the rift was real. Mr. Angelos talked to his sons and to his baseball experts -- but communication between the two groups was nil.

Recently, a thaw has come to the front office. Lou Angelos, in his final year at University of Miami Law School, has struck up a relationship with Mr. Robinson. John Angelos has started meeting informally with Mr. Hemond. Relations with Mr. Melvin have remained chillier.

When he is with Mr. Hemond, a baseball executive two decades before he was born, John says he mostly listens. "It's not like we're putting our heads together on baseball things," he says, smiling.

Mr. Hemond and Mr. Robinson now even talk of including the sonsin some of their routines. Mr. Hemond wants John Angelos to join him on a trip to some minor-league games.

And Mr. Robinson says it would be a good idea for the Angeloses -- Peter, John and Lou -- to attend Orioles meetings where player moves are discussed.

"We would welcome them [Mr. Angelos and his sons] sitting down with us, monthly, weekly or daily," says Mr. Robinson. "We could bounce ideas off them, maybe get some directions from them."

Talking about John and Lou, Mr. Robinson says: "They should feel comfortable not just waiting for a ballgame to come talk with us. I'll go to their office. They can come to my office. We can sit down and talk."

Baseball isn't the only part of the Orioles operation in which Mr. Angelos has involved his sons. While Lou, who makes occasional trips to Baltimore, remains somewhat out of the picture, John is around more. A secretary answers his phone. And his office, shared with his mother, is maybe six steps from his father's.

Signs of John's influence in the front office are apparent. His projects vary, but many have required him to get into the nitty-gritty of Orioles finances. He is now deep into picking apart the club's budget, interviewing department heads and checking how they spend their money. It's a job he is taking seriously,

based on reports from around the building that he is inquiring into expenditures as small as the team's overnight mail bill.

That comes on the heels of another project -- overhauling club policy on free tickets for employees -- that didn't win him many friends among the club's workers. Full-time employees still get two free tickets per game, but many have been moved to $4 bleacher seats, a big comedown from last year's $14 terrace boxes.

Some workers say they looked at the prime tickets as part of their pay, a benefit for which they were willing to put up with long hours and forgo overtime. They say office morale has slid because of the change.

To many at the Orioles, it is clear that, someday, they will be working with John and Lou, maybe even working for them. "I would see John in baseball someday if he so desires," says Mr. Hemond.

As for Peter Angelos, he clearly has a dream for his sons. It's not to spend their lives juggling the Orioles pitching staff.

"There's nothing wrong with baseball," says Peter Angelos, "but baseball is fun and games. Being a lawyer, that's a more important lifetime pursuit."

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