- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 25, 2003

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. After one of the most tragic weeks in franchise history, the Baltimore Orioles welcomed the opportunity to play a baseball game yesterday.
Exactly one week earlier, the players were pulled from the field and told that teammate Steve Bechler died of heatstroke. The team then spent the rest of the week trying to come to terms with the tragedy.
So even though yesterday's four-inning intrasquad game had virtually no affect on the 2003 season, it served as a welcome departure from the events of the previous seven days.
"It's been a tough week for us, for the ballclub and the Bechler family," second baseman Jerry Hairston said. "We lost a member of our family; that's the way we look at it.
"Obviously, he's going to be missed. But at the same time, Beck would want us to move on and really start the season well. It's a sad situation, but the guys are doing the best they can. Hopefully we can somehow get through it."
Bechler, a 23-year-old pitching prospect, died less than 24 hours after collapsing during a workout. He reported to camp overweight and out of shape, and the Broward County chief medical examiner has linked the death to a diet supplement containing ephedrine.
Coping with the loss of a teammate was a new, unwanted experience for the majority of the Orioles.
"It's been an unusually tough start for a lot of us," outfielder Chris Richard said. "It's the first time for a number of us that someone close has passed away like this. You've just got to get through it and take it day by day."
On this day, Jeff Reboulet took the first step toward earning a roster spot as a utility player. Signed as a minor league free agent shortly before the opening of camp, Reboulet singled and made two sensational plays at shortstop, including a leaping grab of a liner off the bat of Marty Cordova.
Reboulet's standout performance in this meaningless game didn't seal the deal in his bid to earn a major-league contract. But it sure didn't hurt.
"You don't make a decision the first day, but you start gathering information. You remember things from Day One," manager Mike Hargrove said. "Certainly the way Jeff played left a good impression, and we'll remember that. But I don't think there's anyone who made the club, or didn't make the club, today."
The Orioles did, however, take another step toward returning to normalcy.
"Every day is a little bit better," first baseman-outfielder Jay Gibbons said. "The last couple days we've been going out there and taking care of business, but obviously it's still in the back of your mind. It might be there for a while."


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