Even for baseball fans who've seen everything, this was a bizarre sight: The entire Baltimore Orioles' grounds crew, perched behind the tarp and poised to spring into action as a storm approached, suddenly got told by an umpire to scram.
That's how it looked Wednesday night at Camden Yards as the Orioles clung to a one-run lead in the ninth inning over the New York Yankees.
Ready to roll out the tarp from beyond first base, nearly 20 members of the grounds crew were standing in foul territory in front of the first row of seats, waiting for a signal. What they saw was acting umpire crew chief Tim Timmons cutting across the diamond from his spot at third base, emphatically waving several times for them to completely clear the field.
Quickly, the crew scrambled down the right field line, into the corner and out of sight.
Were they chirping too much? Were they trying too hard to get busy and protect Baltimore's edge? Were they tossed?
Naw, naw and naw, Timmons said.
“I didn't ‘eject’ the grounds crew,” Timmons said in a text to The Associated Press. “I just didn't want all of them behind the tarp, especially with the infield in.”
So on what soon became a wet night, the Baltimore brigade kept its record spotless, and didn't join mascots and stadium organists on the list of strange ballpark ejections over the years.
This scene unfolded with the Orioles ahead 3-2, runners on second and third, and Brett Gardner batting with one out. After the crew scurried away, Gardner fouled off three pitches before blooping a two-run single that gave the Yankees a 4-3 win.
It began to rain about five minutes later. The field was never covered and the game finished without incident.
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