A group of 15 current and former Orioles gathered today for an event completely unrelated to the Winter Meetings. Leaving deals and trades, contracts and career stats in Indy, this group of ballplayers spent the afternoon with 80 kids from Lakeland Elementary School at the Orioles Christmas Party for Kids.
Chris Ray, Cla Meredith, Jeremy Guthrie, Brad Bergesen, Chris Tillman, and Brian Bass made up the roster of current players; Brandon Erbe, Steve Johnson, and Chorye Spoone joined the lunch party from the Minors; and Rick Dempsey, Dave Johnson, Scott McGreggor, Larry Sheets, Bill Swaggerty, and John Shelby made up the list of former O's at the ESPN Zone this afternoon.
It was the largest group of Orioles ever to attend the O's annual kids Christmas party. Meredith and Bergesen's wives also came along to enjoy the afternoon.
As in years past, MASN's Jim Hunter emceed the event with ease. He introduced the list of Orioles who then served lunch to the room full of kids so ecstatic they could hardly stay in their chairs.
As the kids finished lunch, the players handed out picture cards and signed a few autographs before settling into small groups to watch the students eat and compare player cards.
Then suddenly someone mentioned the word "games" and it soon echoed throughout the room. Jim Hunter led the group upstairs to the Sports Arena, and the competitions began. The current and former players were as intense as the kids playing the various video games at the ESPN Zone.
The biggest stand-off, hands down, was at the "race track."
Brad Bergesen started the buzz by taking on three Lakeland Elementary Schoolers at a horse racing game that required him to crouch on a small plastic horse and "gallop" to the finish line. The game soon drew in Brandon Erbe; then Cla Meredith and his wife; then Chorye Spoone, who all took turns racing the students 'around the track.'
Spoone looked exhausted after his run, and Meredith admitted, "I got schooled by those kids!"
Jeremy Guthrie also challenged a member of the O's PR staff to some Long Pass Football. When I noted that Guthrie was pretty good, the O's employee (who I'll allow to remain nameless), responded sarcastically, "He does gets paid to throw balls accurately." TouchÃ©.
When the kids were then corralled back to the first floor, Santa Clause made a grand entrance and sang Christmas carols with the kids before they gave him their wish lists, posed for photos, and received gift packages courtesy of the O's.
As usual, the Christmas luch was a merry success, and the Orioles players who gave their afternoons left the ESPN Zone smiling, just like the kids.