- The Washington Times - Friday, August 30, 2002

ARLINGTON, Texas At 4:15p.m. CDT yesterday, the Baltimore Orioles sat in their clubhouse at the Ballpark in Arlington, many of them watching a big-screen TV showing the action movie "The Rock."
At 5:25p.m., they went onto the field for batting practice. At 7:09p.m., leadoff hitter Melvin Mora took ball one from Texas Rangers right-hander Aaron Myette as a sparse crowd was still filing into the park.
And at 11:45p.m., the Orioles were scheduled to depart Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport for Anaheim, still unsure whether or not there would be a game to play once they got there.
Business as usual? Hardly.
"It's obviously on everybody's mind I don't know how it can't be," manager Mike Hargrove said of the ongoing labor negotiations that are due to come to a head this afternoon. "So I can't say it's completely business as usual. We try as much as we can to keep it that way. The players do a pretty god job of keeping in mind what we're trying to do that day. But it's on everybody's mind."
The Orioles have done their best to separate themselves from the down-to-the-wire negotiations in New York, but as they took the field last night for what could be the final game of the 2002 season, the thoughts were starting to creep through their heads.
"Right now, it doesn't seem too weird because we know we're going to play tonight," second baseman Jerry Hairston said before the game. "So you just go out and do your job. But if the deal's not done by the time we're heading out to Anaheim, that's going to seem kind of strange."
What happens once the Orioles arrive in Southern California remained up in the air, as well. If the strike begins as planned at 3:20p.m. EDT, tonight's game against the Angels will be called off. The team will probably stay in town through most of the afternoon, but, according to one player, if the two sides remain far apart, they will be free to go home right away (some who have relatives near Anaheim may stay in town).
Jason Johnson, the club's player representative, participated in a conference call with the union's executive board at 11:30a.m. and was due to join another call after the game. He continued to update his teammates on the latest news, which at times yesterday seemed to sway from good to bad every 15 minutes or so.
"It's been such a roller coaster," first baseman Jeff Conine said. "One minute everything sounds very positive and everyone's cooperating, working towards a solution. And then the next minute everything seems to go backwards. I still have hope."
Conine's teammates shared his sentiments, even those who were around during the nasty, 232-day strike that wiped out the 1994 World Series.
"I think something can get done," veteran relief pitcher Buddy Groom said. "I don't know whether it will or not. You hope something gets done, but if not, we're prepared to do what we have to do, as much as we would hate it."
Over in the Rangers' clubhouse, shortstop Alex Rodriguez the game's highest-paid player offered a less optimistic view.
"It doesn't look good right now," he said. "I think our guys are ready to go. You just have to prepare yourself for the worst."
Aside from the relatively small size of the crowd that showed up to see two sub-.500 teams play on a Thursday night, there was little overt outrage from fans, who across the country have vowed not to come back if the players strike.

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