- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 25, 2000

BALTIMORE Denny Neagle admits he felt strange coming into Camden Yards with the Baltimore Orioles' archrivals.

Neagle used to bleed orange and black. But after a trade last week, he is now a member of the New York Yankees, the same club he despised while growing up in Maryland.

"To come back here in a Yankees uniform is definitely a weird feeling," said Neagle, who was acquired from Cincinnati for minor-league prospects. "I mentioned when I was traded that I grew up hating the Yankees because I was a huge Orioles fan. But even if you hate them, you have to respect them because of all the tradition and pride that goes with the Yankees."

Neagle is the latest pitcher picked up by New York as it pursues a third consecutive World Series title. The 31-year-old left-hander would like to sign a long-term deal that would keep him at his new home for the rest of his career.The Anne Arundel County native has been a big hit in the Big Apple since he was acquired by the Yankees last week. Neagle is 2-0 in his two starts. He has a 1.06 ERA and won his 100th career game Sunday by throwing a complete game in a 5-1 victory over Tampa Bay.

"I'm not complaining and I don't think the Yankees are complaining either," said Neagle, with his fifth team after beginning in the Minnesota organization in 1989. "It's just nice to be able to go out and contribute and make the trade look good."

Neagle was the most popular guy in the clubhouse before last night's game in his return to the area. He will not pitch in the series, though it's not as if he doesn't have plenty to do. Instead of fooling hitters with his savvy pitches and great location, he is finding tickets for his friends and family who can see him more often now that he's in the American League.

"I left about 24 tickets tonight," he said. "I mean my mom and my dad, my brother and uncles. My two grandmothers couldn't come to the game, but pretty much everybody else."

Neagle, who graduated from Arundel High School in 1986, said negotiations already have started on a four-year deal that would keep him in pinstripes.

"There is no question that it is a big desire of mine to stay in New York, but I am also not going to sell myself short," said Neagle, who feels he is just coming into his prime. "I'm still young. I will turn 32 later this season. My old pitching coach Ray Miller used to say that Earl Weaver said that left-handers come into their prime at about 30-, 31-years-old. Look at David Wells, he's become a better and better pitcher."

And Neagle would like to do the same thing in New York, even if he is a member of the hated foe of his home state, a situation that puts those close to him in a bit of a quandary.

"It's pretty weird to come back here, not in the pinstripes, but in the road uniform, and to be in front of my family and everything," said Neagle, who became a father for the first time in January with the birth of his son, Trey. "I think a lot of my family and friends are going to have a hard time because they are all huge Orioles fans, and who are they going to cheer for now?"

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