As Kevin Young flashed across the finish line, Baltimore Orioles scout Bill Buchanan double-checked his stop watch. Young ran a 6.5 in the 60-yard dash, just four-tenths of a second off the world record and much faster than any of the 57 other young men who had brought their gloves and spikes yesterday to Banneker Stadium in Northwest Washington to try out for the Orioles.
Next came the test of throwing arms. Young, 22, who played outfield for two years at Howard University before leaving the school, hurled the ball about 250 feet on the fly, a powerful throw that seemed to pick up speed on its unwavering flight to home plate. The Orioles' electronic radar gun clocked Young's throw at 82 miles per hour from the outfield -- faster, again, than anyone else.
For Kevin Young and the others, this was the stuff of dreams: the chance that here, on a dusty, pock-marked ball field off Georgia Avenue NW, their speed, strength and hitting ability would draw the attention of the five guys in the bright orange-and-white Oriole uniforms and open the door to a career in the big leagues.
From 16-year-old Scott Jones of Gaithersburg, who came with his father "just for the experience" of a tryout, to Zack Nesbitt, a 22-year-old Marine hoping to show the form that made him a 1977 all-city player at H.D. Woodson High in Northeast, they came in dungarees or in freshly cleaned uniforms to show off their best for the scouts.
Like so many race horses, these young bodies would be clocked by stopwatch and radar gun and appraised as potential investments.
"It's pretty straightforward," said Jim Gilbert, 52, a former minor leaguer who is now the Orioles' mid-Atlantic territorial supervisor for scouting, "We run 'em in the 60, then we get 'em on arm strength and then we see how good they hit."
In the storybooks, the unknown kid strides onto the sandlot, hits a dozen balls over the fence and gets signed to a big league contract. In the real world, Gilbert said, that is almost unheard of.
Tryouts, he said, are aimed mostly at finding players known as "follows" -- high school, college or amateur prospects, usually teen-agers, who are worth following until they become major league material.
Young, who had been a star at Oakland Mills High School in Columbia, already has had a taste of big league glory: In 1980, after he had transferred out of Howard, he was drafted by the Detroit Tigers and played two seasons in Class A with the Tigers' minor league team in Bristol, Tenn. Young said he was earning $1,000 a month, with the hope that some day he could at least move up to the AAA league "where you could actually make a living playing baseball."
But this spring, Young was cut from the Tigers, and yesterday was an attempt to salvage his big-league dream. "I had a little trouble sleeping last night. I get geared up," said Young. "Once I get up in the morning, I'm ready to play ball."
"I'm only 22. Somebody has got to pick me up," Young said as he limbered up, flexing biceps and thighs made massive by hours of weight training. "I know I'm better than a lot of guys playing ahead of me. Somebody has got to notice."
This time, wearing one of his old Tigers uniforms, Young flied out to right field, flinging his batting helmet in disgust. Gilbert said his hitting may be what keeps Young from making it. And at 22, he no longer is considered young by scouting standards. After four hours, when the players had left and the Oriole scouts gathered for a beer to discuss the hottest prospect, the only serious "follow" was Gerald Adams, a 19-year-old Howard University pitcher from Brandywine. "He could be pretty good . . . if he doesn't get burned out" from pitching too much, said Jerry Small, a D.C. Superior Court clerk who also is the Orioles chief scout for the Washington area.
Young knows he soon must confront the idea of another career. Meanwhile, he said he still finds reasons to hope: "If I am still running and throwing well, I will keep trying. You know Dave Parker of the Pirates? They said he was terrible and couldn't hit. Pete Rose didn't even start on his high school team."