How I booted my big chance to become an Orioles ballboy

At noon today, nearly 60 men and women, baseball gloves in one hand and resumes in the other, showed up at Camden Yards hoping to become one of six Orioles ballboys or ballgirls for the 2011 season. I was one of them (though I brought my notepad and recorder instead of a resume).

I'll eventually get to the part of the tryout where I awkwardly took a chopper from Dave Johnson to the chest, but I chatted with a few fans whose reasons for trying out were much more interesting than those of a reporter and blogger turned crash test dummy. 

After all, what would inspire adults -- you had to be 18 or older to try out -- to apply for a part-time job that pays them eight dollars an hour to snag foul balls smoked off the bat of Nick Markakis or Vladimir Guerrero in front of thousands of fans?

Sure, if you make the cut, you get paid to watch about 30 Orioles games from one of the best seats in the house and you're still on the clock if there's a rain delay. But I couldn't handle that kind of pressure. I don't want to be showing up the "Not Top 10" list on "SportsCenter." 

Of course, I also hadn't picked up a baseball glove in years before today's tryout. That wasn't the case for Jimmy Trana, 24, of Montgomery County. Trana, who coaches youth players in Gaithersburg, said he had once pursued a career in professional baseball, but a car accident four years ago shattered his left arm and his dreams. He showed me the big bump near his left elbow.

"I decided to come here because I lost my dreams," Trana, who was dressed in an Orioles hat and windbreaker, told me in the visitors' dugout. "I wanted to touch the grass, I wanted to be here."

Trana also hopes to inspire the youngsters he coaches by making it to Camden Yards as a ballboy.

"I want my kids to follow their dreams, so if they see me here and are like 'Oh my god, coach is there,' they can get the motivation to play baseball and be somebody one day," he said.

As Trana took his turn fielding ground balls down the left field line, Kathy Becker, 70, of Parkville patiently waited for her turn from the top step of the dugout. She wore a white No. 5 Orioles jersey with her last name on the back and autographs from old-school Orioles on the front. She wore an autographed glove, too, signed by Boog Powell at an Orioles fantasy camp.

"I want to cross this experience off my bucket list," she explained. "I was at fantasy camp with Brooks [Robinson] and Boog and all those guys, and that was a lot of fun. I just love baseball."

If Becker can field one-hoppers with ease, move quickly on her feet and lead rowdy fans in the "Charge!" chants, she will have as good of a chance as anyone to make the cut. Heather Bressler, the Orioles' coordinator of in-game entertainment, said that the team will hire the best candidates for the job, which starts April 4 and runs until the end of the season. "And hopefully the postseason," Bressler said.

The Orioles have employed 30- and 40-somethings in the past, and I hope they hire that kind 70-year-old woman this year. Especially since it's seems unlikely that I'm going to make the cut after I misplayed a grounder off the bat of Johnson, a MASN broadcaster and a former Orioles pitcher.

I was doing so well, too. I aced the video portion of the tryout, explaining to the Orioles that I would gladly move from the press box to baselines if it paid more than The Baltimore Sun. I gave it my all when pumping my fist and yelling "Charge!" at a stadium full of empty seats. And I fielded the first ball that Johnson hit to me with ease (though I one-hopped it back to its destination).

But then came my inevitable blunder. The second ball Johnson hit to me took a nasty hop off the synthetic surface, bounced over my glove and hard off my chest before rolling 10 feet back towards home plate. I scrambled to track it down and fire it back, but I booted my big chance.

I had no issues the rest of the way, but I don't think I'm getting that callback.

It's OK, though. There were much more deserving candidates, ones who would appreciate a chance to work for their favorite team much more than I would.

Adam Weatherford, 27, of Damascus, told me that he has been "a huge Orioles fan since the womb and I think it would be amazing to be out there on the field with them." He had wanted to try out for years but he put it off until now. Weatherford is cautiously optimistic about the team's chances in 2011 under manager Buck Showalter, but he said it would be an incredible experience if he got the ballboy job the same year the Orioles got back to their winning ways.

"I would be ecstatic," he said. "It's been enough years of them losing."

Even for those who don't end up making it to the next round of the tryout -- 10 of today's attendees are expected to be asked back for interviews -- they still got a chance to field grounders and snap a few photos on the field of one of America's most beautiful ballparks.

That's not too shabby of a way to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon in Baltimore if you ask me.