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Money, luck just the ticket for Cal fans


On the historic night on which Cal Ripken matches Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games record, one of Camden Yards' closest neighbors, the University of Maryland at Baltimore, expects to be well represented.

For the big game, UMAB has 1,200 tickets.

The university didn't pull strings to get its seats, despite its big outfield billboard at Camden Yards, and the location of its campus, just beyond the ballpark's left-field grandstand.

It was more a case of plain luck. The university bought the tickets last November, before anyone could have predicted the exact date on which Ripken would find his niche in the baseball record books.

"People are beside themselves they're so excited. It has been the talk of the campus," said Marian Lipinski, UMAB's director of auxiliary services, and a trip organizer.

"The Orioles tried to convince us to take another night. We said, 'No way. People would be so disappointed they wouldn't show up.' Everybody knows exactly what this game means."

Deans and professors aren't the only ones planning to attend the key Ripken performances. Tickets to Tuesday's record-tying and Wednesday's record-breaking games, some of the most sought-after tickets in Orioles history, are in the hands of a variety of baseball fans. They range from season-ticket buyers to fans who've done their buying from scalpers, some charging more than $1,000 a seat.

Camden Yards holds roughly 48,000 spectators. Most of the tickets for next week's long-awaited games are going to the club's regular customers. Full and partial season-ticket holders received about 24,000 tickets for Tuesday's game and 27,400 for Wednesday's game.

The largest chunk of seats is reserved for buyers of full-plan season tickets -- this year's complete schedule of 72 home games. For the Cal games, those customers received their usual allotment of tickets.

Buyers of mini-plan season tickets also had a chance at seats, though a riskier one. Last month, the Orioles entered some of these fans, who buy tickets to 13 or 29 games a year, in a random lottery. About 6,000 seats for the two games were up for grabs.

The rest of the Ripken tickets were distributed in a myriad of ways. The Orioles held back tickets for employees, to give as bonuses to fans who signed up for their Fantasy Camp and to invite special guests. Organizations such as UMAB purchased blocks of seats from the club's group sales department.

Even Joe Fan had a chance at a pair of tickets. Last January, the Orioles put on sale at least several thousand seats at their ticket windows. At the time, major-league baseball was in a throes of an eight-month work stoppage. The dates for Ripken to tie and break the Gehrig record were little more than moving targets.

It wasn't until April, when the strike ended and fans began checking their Orioles schedules, that tickets to the Cal games finally sold out.

Jennifer Leete was among the lucky buyers. A former Baltimore resident, she was visiting the Orioles box office on April 1. At the ticket window, an Orioles employee mentioned the streak and suggested she consider buying for games Sept. 4-6.

Leete, a Washington lawyer, bought three $5 bleacher seats for each game, offering the extra seats to a law school friend and his wife. In the months since, she said, she has had only one regret.

"I'm sorry I didn't buy a few more," said Leete. Recently, she said, she has read of ticket brokers asking $250 for seats like hers.

Like Leete, Joe Kro-art Jr. has tickets to the record-breaking game Wednesday. But he paid a very different price -- $700 for two seats.

Even he can't believe it.

"Frugal is the word to describe me. I never spent more than $25 for a ticket in my life," said Kro-art, who owns an art gallery on the Ocean City boardwalk.

Still, Kro-art jumped at the chance to buy the tickets. They are a gift for his son, Joe III. The younger Kro-art is an intense baseball fan, his father said. They'll go to the game together to celebrate Joe III's acceptance into a graduate fellowship program at the University of Maryland.

Kro-art bought the tickets more than a week ago but said he didn't know where the seats are located. Attending the game and sharing in his son's excitement, he said, are more important.

"He has been walking around with the tickets ever since we got them, " Kro-art said. "It means a tremendous amount to him."

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