Bedard takes time out for fans
Orioles pitcher makes appearance at ESPN Zone on Thursday
BALTIMORE -- After waiting in line for more than an hour at ESPN Zone in Baltimore's inner harbor, one fan had a bold request for Orioles ace Erik Bedard."Could you sign it '2007 Cy Young Winner?'" he asked, handing Bedard a new baseball.
Bedard obliged, and would go on to sign hundreds more baseballs, pictures and jerseys in the hour he appeared before fans on Thursday before Baltimore opened a four-game series against Minnesota.Some eager Orioles fanatics had to wait more than two hours and lined out the door to get a chance to shake the hand of the Baltimore pitching staff's dominant force. And even with the general conception that Bedard isn't one for fanfare, emotion or hoopla, most in attendance seemed more than satisfied. "He's low key, he does his business, and that's it," said Baltimore native Dan Rosenberg, 40. Rosenberg came with friend and fellow O's fan Eric Cohen, who added, "As long as he's winning, it doesn't matter." If it's the W's that are important, fans should have Bedard enshrined on a pedestal. He's 13-4 and is 9-0 with a 2.20 ERA in his last 12 starts. He also has a sizable lead atop the Major League strikeout ranks with 218 this year. He still has six or seven more starts left, but he has already tied the Baltimore franchise record for strikeouts in a season. Little is known about Bedard's off-the-field persona, and ESPN.com's Amy Nelson wrote a story last week that examined Bedard off the mound. "Bedard is at times rude, standoffish and disinterested, and perversely takes pride in his attitude," Nelson wrote. But fans who waited to see him, whether they had read the story or not, disagreed. "I've heard that he's very quiet and doesn't like to do interviews," said Orioles season-ticket holder Jay Sweren. "But he seemed great today." ESPN Zone managers Scott Hutchinson and Leigh Friedman hustled every which way during the frantic hour to meet fan requests and ensure the event transpired smoothly. They said they didn't even get a chance to meet Bedard. "These always draw enormous crowds, but Bedard has drawn the biggest yet," Friedman said. "This is a strong fan response -- it's fabulous. He seemed like a great guy and we're so excited that he agreed to do it." From middle-aged men and women to grinning youngsters, the reaction to getting a close-up glimpse of Baltimore's top hurler was completely positive. Ten-year-olds Zach Elkin and Maxwell Hamlett exited the dense crowd clutching their autographed baseballs and 4-year-old superfan Ray Daugherty was almost bouncing off the walls with excitement. But after all the interaction, handshakes and "pleases" and "thank yous," Bedard left for Camden Yards and thoughts turned to the future. "I just hope they sign him," Sweren said of Bedard's contract, which will keep him in an Orioles uniform for two more seasons. "They can't let this kid get out of here."
Geremy Bass is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.