Monday, March 5, 2012
Joe Orsulak, 1990 Classic Yellow #T50
I heard about it from Keith Mills during his 6:30 AM sports report on 98 Rock's morning radio show as I drove into work today. When he uttered the name "Gene Hoffman", I just about swerved into the next lane. (For a colorful anecdote about my own personal history with Coach Hoffman, read this blog post from 2008.) According to Keith, he had just parked his car at Oriole Park at Camden Yards when he ran into Gene, with whom he was already acquainted because you can't throw a rock in Baltimore without hitting someone that Keith Mills knows personally. Hoffman explained that just by trying out, he'd be fulfilling one of his dreams: scooping ground balls on the field at the O's ballpark. It didn't bother him that he was decades older than the majority of the other applicants. As he told his coworker Matt (a friend and former classmate of mine, and a diehard Oriole fan in his own right), the age requirement was 18+ and by that measure he was the most qualified person there.
Joe Orsulak was helping to judge the hopefuls, and Keith claims that he ensured that at least one fungo was hit out onto the grass so that Gene could range over from the third base-side foul territory and realize his goal of snagging a grounder on the playing field. He dove for it and everything! The invaluable secondhand account I received from Matt fills in further details:
-Gene was wearing a Cal Ripken, Jr. shirt for his tryout, and when he signed in he was #8 in the queue. Coincidence, or good omen?
-Though he'd run in championship meets and the Penn Relays and spoken at many public events, he'd "never been this nervous". But it was "a thrill coming out from behind home plate and sitting in the dugout".
-Bob Popik, who Gene coached at Archbishop Curley High some years ago, runs the music for the O's and the Ravens. At Keith's insistence, Bob played the "CHARGE!" rally music when Gene took his turn.
-One last quote: "I don't know the outcome---really don't care, but it was a neat thing to do. Maybe we'll all be there next year."
For my part, I'd like to wish Gene Hoffman luck, and just hearing about his tryout made my day.