Juan Guzman was one of the first baseball players that I ever saw up-close-and-personal-like. I guess it was summer of 1994, and a friend had somehow scored AMAZING tickets, right down the first base line, behind the first base dugout at Camden Yards, and like three rows up. I’ve never been so close to a game, and it spoiled me for years afterward. Anyway, I kind of remember Guzman coming over and signing autographs, but I DEFINITELY remember watching him warm up so close to us. I was amazed at how close the mound was to home plate. It seems a whole lot closer when you’ve got some flamethrower out there, let me tell you.
It took a lot of digging, and I thought it had gone down before the year of my high school graduation, but apparently not – July 31st, 1994, was the first time Guzman pitched at Camden. He didn’t exactly pitch a gem, but he got the win against a decent Baltimore lineup. Looking at that lineup, I feel pretty honored to have seen some of those guys: Devon White, Robbie Alomar, Paul Molitor, and John Olerud (my second time seeing my hero in action). Not to mention, of COURSE, Cal Ripken, Harold Baines, and Rafael Palmeiro, who I liked a lot at the time.
I also remember this game as a big deal for the neighborhood rivalry – Ben McDonald versus John Olerud – the ultimate answer to who was better. The victor? Well…Olerud went 2 for 3 with a homerun and a triple. McDonald? 6 ER in 5 innings. Olerud supremacy!