Diamonds are this magician's best friendDick Steiner...


Diamonds are this magician's best friend

Dick Steiner probably can't do a thing to fix the hair of Seattle Mariners' ace Randy Johnson. He probably can't produce from thin air an agreement settling the endless labor dispute in major-league baseball. Magic, even specially designed baseball magic, has its limits.

He can, however, make a baseball mysteriously appear beneath a cup and make coins jump across a miniature baseball diamond. Under his deft hands, cards bearing pictures of Cal Ripken Jr. and Lou Gehrig transform instantly to show the old consecutive game record: 2-1-3-0.

Baseball magic no doubt is a small field, and Mr. Steiner may well have it to himself. But this small part of his entertainment business has already carried the Millersville man to two all-star games, to a fantasy camp at the "Field of Dreams" in Dyersville, Iowa, and to a party suite at Camden Yards the night Cal broke Gehrig's record. He has performed for the likes of George Brett, Barry Bonds, Rollie Fingers, Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson and his childhood idol Harmon Killebrew.

Mr. Steiner, 49, a West Point graduate, has been a full-time magician since he retired as an Army lieutenant colonel in 1989. He figures he does about 200 shows a year, most of them for corporate banquets, meetings, grand openings and private parties. He does not perform for children's parties because much of his stage act involves mind-reading and ESP. That tends to go over children's heads, says Mr. Steiner.

The baseball magic combines his nine-year passion for magic with his lifelong love of baseball, which began when he was growing up in Minnesota. He's got a fine memory and a head full of baseball trivia that come in handy when meeting ballplayers.

He's met his share of players and expects to meet more of them when he performs at parties and receptions surrounding the 1996 All-Star Game in Philadelphia.

"My dream," he says, "is to perform at a World Series when the Orioles are playing in the World Series."

Nice trick. Try pulling one more starting pitcher and a bullpen stopper out of your hat. "Everything I know I learned from my father. He would take me and my brother to all kinds of places, and he knew how to make it fun," says Brooke Stauffer.

Mr. Stauffer is the author of the newly published "Adventures in ++ Science and Technology: Washington, Maryland and Virginia" ($9.95, the Washington Book Trading Co.), a guide to this area's many high-tech attractions.

The 44-year-old engineer for the National Electrical Contractors Association in Bethesda describes himself as "first a daddy, and then a writer." Mr. Stauffer was inspired by his experiences taking his own children, Chris, now 19, Hilary, 18, and Greg, 12, on treasure hunts for knowledge and, most importantly, fun.

"I've spent literally years and years going to museums and parks and observatories," says Mr. Stauffer, who grew up in Baltimore and now lives in Washington.

Like his father, Mr. Stauffer is not the kind of guy who enjoys staying at home and watching a football or baseball game. "The notion of killing half a Saturday watching a sports game and a million advertisements is strange to me," he says. "I didn't set out consciously to educate my kids. I just thought, 'Let's spend every weekend going out.' "

His book identifies 35 science venues in Maryland alone, many unusual, such as the College Park Airport Museum, where the Wright Brothers taught the Army to fly; the National Cryptologic Museum in Anne Arundel County, run by the National Security Agency and housed in an old motel surrounded by barbed wire; or the Baltimore Streetcar Museum.

The book is dedicated to Henry Stauffer, whom Brooke Stauffer believes passed on to his son the knowledge of how to have fun and be a great father. "This is a two-generation project," the younger Mr. Stauffer says.

Jenny Komatsu

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