Atholton's Ed Bach and Centennial's Dan Shillingburg stood outside the visitors dugout at Oriole Park at Camden Yards and stared at their surroundings -- the pristinely cut grass, the lavish dugouts and the center field video screen where their names were illuminated in bold letters.
They were among 30 players from across the state who officially ended their high school careers Sunday at the Brooks Robinson High School All-Star Game, which was played after the Baltimore Orioles-Boston Red Sox game. The all-star game ended in an 11-11 tie between the North and South squads.
"I just tried to soak everything in," said Bach, an All-Met pitcher. "One minute you have an All-Star like Melvin Mora shaking your hand during introductions, and great players like Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro are just a few feet away. The next thing you know you're playing on the same field they do. You just try to take it all in."
For Bach and Shillingburg, it was a major league day, a sun-soaked afternoon when families and friends could watch the pair's last game as high school players. Bach will play next season for the University of Maryland Baltimore County and Shillingburg for Maryland.
"It's kind of fitting that it ended in a tie because everyone goes home happy," said Shillingburg, a catcher. "It was a fun way to go out."
Before the game, Bach and Shillingburg were among 49,828 spectators for the Orioles' 4-1 victory over division-leading Boston. But when they emerged from the tunnel behind home plate for pregame warmups, only 317 fans remained from what had been the largest crowd to attend a regular season game in stadium history. The smaller crowd didn't diminish the experience.
"I started to feel more and more butterflies in my stomach," Bach said. "I just couldn't wait to get on the field and play. How many times do you get to play in a major league stadium?"
Bach, a left-hander who finished the season 6-2 with a 0.83 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 59 innings, spent most of the time in the bullpen because he was scheduled to pitch later innings. Shillingburg, who hit .472 and drove in 16 runs for Centennial, batted third in the lineup. The South team was coached by Denis Ahearn, who coaches at Centennial.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so you just want every kid to play," Ahearn said. "When you have the best kids in Maryland playing together, it really doesn't matter where any of them play."
Shillingburg grounded out to second in the first inning and flew out to center in the third inning. He had a run-scoring single in the fifth inning and flied out to center in his final at-bat.
When Bach strolled to the mound in the sixth inning, his dad, Ed Bach Jr., captured the moment with a video camera from his seat behind home plate. Shillingburg put on his catcher's gear and extended his glove for Bach, just as he has done hundreds of times when they played on the same summer league team for six seasons.
"I'm going to remember this day for a long time," the elder Bach said. "It's all the little things. How often do you get to see your son get introduced at a major league game, then get a hug from the Orioles' mascot?"
Bach entered with his team leading, 10-9. He recorded two strikeouts and allowed just one hit, but the North parlayed two passed balls, a wild pitch and an error into an 11-10 lead. The South tied the game on a home run by Brian Hobbs of North Caroline, and Bach retired the North in its final at-bat to end the highest scoring game in the event's 24-year history.
"If I could have caught for any pitcher on our team, I wanted it to be Ed," Shillingburg said after the game. "We've known each other for so long so this was a great way for us to end our time in high school and now go our separate ways."