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On Orioles’ would-be Opening Day, vendor ‘Fancy Clancy’ Haskett waiting for return to normalcy

Thursday was the day Clarence Haskett had trained for since November.

On what would’ve been the Orioles’ Opening Day, he was supposed to make his way down the aisles of Oriole Park as the home team made its way out on the orange carpet and took on the New York Yankees, trying to sell beers in the always-entertaining manner that has earned him the moniker “Fancy Clancy.” It’s why, to prepare to continue his fifth decade as a beer vendor at Orioles games, he went to the gym regularly starting in November, making sure his 60-year-old body was in shape to handle the rigors of as many of the team’s 80 games at Camden Yards as possible.

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But for Haskett and all others at home dreaming of beer and a ballgame, Thursday will be just another day. With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic prompting Major League Baseball to delay the start of its season, what was circled as the 2020 season’s grand opening is instead another spot on the calendar to check off on the hopeful path to normalcy.

“Not having sports,” Haskett said, “is what’s really been getting to me.”

Haskett, who turns 61 in early April, estimated he has missed nine games at Camden Yards since 2007. It’s possible he and his fellow vendors could miss out on at least twice that many before the 2020 campaign even begins, with MLB delaying the season until at least mid-May as it follows recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about gatherings of more than 50 people.

The Orioles, like all MLB teams, have pledged $1 million to their ballpark employees, though the club has yet to announce a formalized plan for that donation. Haskett, who said he gets paid by commission, is unsure how any system will work for vendors like him who don’t have an hourly salary, but he appreciates the Orioles working to find a solution given the financial impact he would feel.

“That’s going to be a big hit,” Haskett said in a phone interview. “We’re looking at a month worth of income, maybe a month and a half worth of income. We’re looking at an easy one-sixth of my total yearly earnings there, maybe more.”

Haskett considers himself fortunate among ballpark workers, though. He’s worked for the Maryland State Highway Association for the past 30 years, and although he’s now working from home, he still has his day job. Haskett said he had friends who made their way to Sarasota, Florida, to work the Orioles’ spring training games, only to have the exhibition season canceled with eight home games left, and others he knows only vend, working Washington Wizards basketball games and Washington Capitals hockey games in addition to the Orioles.

With all three sports delayed or suspended amid a flurry of sports cancellations worldwide, those in such a situation have no form of income for the foreseeable future. That makes donations such as the Orioles’ all the more important.

“Anything would help,” Haskett said. “We’re all gonna have bills, so something like that would help us all.”

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For now, Haskett will wait for the official announcement of baseball’s return, meaning he can begin ramping up his workouts again to prepare to entertain and deliver to fans at Camden Yards. With the pandemic closing gyms throughout the country, he’s finding other ways to occupy his time.

“I’ll keep on working my regular job, and I’m gonna watch as many movies as I can, and try to do more pushups, I guess,” Haskett said. “Nothing else to do, man.”

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