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Less sweat: Ravens open camp last

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Fact: In yet another example of Brian Billick's new-age, easy-on-the-players approach, the Ravens will open their training camp in Westminster on July 29, a full 10 days later than the Steelers and Falcons open their camps. The Vikings, Bucs and Redskins also will open on July 29, bringing up the rear in the NFL.

Opinion: Given the Ravens' lack of late-season injuries and their 16-4 record under Billick after the midway point of the past two seasons (playoff games included), you can't second-guess Billick for his approach.

Fact: Believe it or not, Goran Ivanisevic, 29, is the oldest men's Wimbledon winner since Arthur Ashe won at 31 in 1975.

Opinion: The Orioles' 2001 Most Valuable Player through the All-Star break? It's a close call between Jeff Conine and Jerry Hairston. Let's give it to Hairston, the team leader in games, runs, hits and steals, and a developing clubhouse leader.

Fact: The Orioles have six games left against the Yankees this season but are already assured of losing the season series to their rivals for the 17th time in the past 19 seasons.

Opinion: If sentiment, ballot stuffing and all other extraneous factors were removed from the equation and baseball's All-Star selections were made strictly on merit, first baseman Jason Giambi, second baseman Roberto Alomar, shortstop Alex Rodriguez, third baseman Troy Glaus, catcher Jorge Posada, outfielders Ichiro Suzuki, Juan Gonzalez and Manny Ramirez and DH Edgar Martinez would start for the American League tonight. (As it is, the outfielders, A-Rod and Martinez were elected by the fans.)

Fact: (From the "It Doesn't Matter How Clever Your Ad Campaign Is" file): The Cincinnati Reds are 11-31 at home this season.

Opinion: Just a suggestion: Instead of using the $10 million they won in the stadium authority parity case on improvements to Camden Yards, the Orioles should give their fans a break and knock a few pennies off the ridiculous price of a beer.

Fact: Cal Ripken has made 42 percent of the Orioles' All-Star Game appearances (19 of 45) since making the American League team for the first time in 1983.

Opinion: Here's guessing the Toronto Blue Jays weren't completely asleep when they let Tony Batista get away. (He's batting .221 in 605 at-bats since the 2000 All-Star break.) But here's also guessing that Terry Crowley, the Orioles' invaluable hitting coach, can get Batista straightened out.

Fact: Justine Henin gave away eight inches and almost 50 pounds to Venus Williams in losing the Wimbledon ladies final in three sets.

Opinion: Coming soon to the NBA draft: a star high school junior who gives up not only his college career, but also his senior year in high school. Let's see the NBA explain that one away.

Fact: None of the 30 major-league ballparks currently in use opened between 1923 and 1962. Dodger Stadium, which opened in 1962, is the game's fourth-oldest park. Yankee Stadium, which opened in 1923, is the third oldest.

Opinion: Trading Chuck Knoblauch to the Mariners would be a major mistake, if the Yankees ever decide to consider it again. Adding Knoblauch's offense would come close to sewing up the AL pennant for Seattle.

Fact: Remarkably, just nine years after it opened, Oriole Park at Camden Yards is baseball's 14th-newest park.

Opinion: The biggest individual surprise for the Orioles so far? It has to be pitcher Jason Johnson, improving from 1-10 a year ago to 8-5 now. But a close second has to be Jay Gibbons, who was supposed to sit this season but is on a pace to hit more than 20 homers.

Fact: With pitching coach Mark Wiley in charge, the Orioles' team ERA in 2001 is 1.27 lower than a year ago.

Opinion: The Home Run Derby attached to the All-Star Game has become a more interesting event than the game itself, which has suffered in marquee value because of interleague play

Fact: Tiger Woods had won five tournaments by this time a year ago, three by this time in 1999. This year, four.

Opinion: At the very least, Michael Jordan deserves kudos for clearing the Wizards' roster of Mitch Richmond, Rod Strickland and Juwan Howard, a nucleus with absolutely no potential. Now comes the hard part: putting together a winning team under fairly severe salary cap restrictions.

Fact: Update: 67-year-old rookie manager Jim Gentile's Fort Worth Cats are in third place in the independent All American Association with an 18-14 record.

Opinion: It's the sight and sound of Yankees fans at Camden Yards that gall many, but there were more Phillies fans at Camden Yards last weekend than there ever are Yankees fans.

Fact: The Orioles' top hitters with runners in scoring position? David Segui at .404, followed by Jeff Conine at .388 and Cal Ripken at .339.

Opinion: If it turns out Ripken, Mark McGwire and Tony Gwynn are together as part of the Hall of Fame's Class of 2006, here's one terrific barstool debate: Which guy will get the most votes?

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