FREDERICK, MD. -- At a tryout slightly more than three months ago, Tyrone Kingwood showed the Baltimore Orioles organization the talent that had made him a first-round major league draft pick.

"He had the grace of an athlete -- running speed, acceleration, body build, bat speed and control," recalled Frederick Keys Manager Wally Moon, listing the attributes Kingwood displayed when he was assigned to the Orioles' Class A affiliate.

But forgive Kingwood if he doesn't get overly enthusiastic. As a 24-year-old veteran of two other organizations already, it wasn't the first time his physical gifts had impressed a major league team.

Out of Imperial Valley Junior College in 1987, the Montreal Expos tapped him in the June draft and "told me I would be their center fielder of the '90s."

Two years later, Montreal released the 6-foot-2, 210-pound athlete.

There were whispers of an attitude problem. The buzz grew louder when a bid to hook on with the Seattle Mariners organization also ended in release, though he'd hit .310 in 26 games.

Of those times, neither he nor the Expos want to talk. The Expos simply say that his time had come to move on. Kingwood, looking forward only, says emphatically, "I want to prove those people wrong."

He yet may. The Orioles became interested, ironically, through Gary Hughes, Montreal's director of scouting. "I thought he deserved a chance, one he might not have gotten with Seattle," Hughes said.

A friend of Baltimore Assistant General Manager Doug Melvin and his assistant Roy Krasik, Hughes recommended Kingwood to them.

What the Keys have gotten is a cleanup hitter who has shown speed, glimpses of power and solid defensive skills in right field. He has hit .330 with six home runs, 16 doubles, a .446 slugging percentage and 42 RBI in only 77 games. Moreover, Keys players and management shrug off his reputation and try to judge him solely on what they see.

"I've gotten along with him great," said catcher Ed Horowitz. "He leads by example, with consistency and intensity. He doesn't like to lose; that's what I first noticed about him."

So as Kingwood tries to leave behind former doubts and grow as a player, he finds himself in the role of a team leader. Still, despite his veteran status, those around him struggle to keep in mind that baseball is a relatively new gig for this Connecticut native. A two-sport star at Bassick High School in Bridgeport, Kingwood made his initial strides on the basketball court.

"I wasn't interested in baseball," he says. "I didn't really know about the draft or anything associated with it. I had gotten letters for baseball from small colleges following high school, but my first interest had been definitely in basketball."

As a senior point guard, he averaged 28 points a game, earning state player-of-the-year honors. From there he moved on to Cleveland State University, redshirting on a team that made the NCAA round of 16.

"I loved the program" in Cleveland, he said, "but the city atmosphere -- no dorms -- it got to the point where I had to move on. When I went to college, that was the lifestyle I had been trying to get away from."

So, after two years, he moved on to Imperial Valley in California to pursue a sport in which his size presented better career opportunities. In limited action, he hit .340 with eight home runs and 15 steals in 15 attempts, attracting the Expos' considerable investment.

And now, his three-year professional baseball odyssey has led to an obviously enjoyable stopover in the rural environs of Frederick. "It's like a family here. We spend a lot of time together on and off the field," he said.

The Orioles are seeing what he can do in a situation in which he can concentrate on baseball. "He's not yet had a full year; this could be the best thing that's happened to him," says Moon.

Despite the contentment on both sides, Kingwood hopes of course that another change of scenery is in the offing, only this time up and not out.

"I just want to thank them {the Orioles organization} for the opportunity," he said. "I'm going to keep my chin up and play hard. I'll get my break here real soon."

Keys-Indians, ppd: The Tuesday night game in Frederick was rained out. That sets up a Wednesday doubleheader starting at 5:30 p.m. with Keys pitchers Oswaldo Peraza and Zachary Kerr going against Kinston's Curtis Leskenic and Todd Gonzales.

Tigers 5, Suns 4: In Hagerstown, Lou Frazier executed a suicide squeeze bunt in the ninth inning to score Ricardo Ingram and give London (Ontario) the Class AA Eastern League victory over the Baltimore affiliate.

Ingram had a single, double and triple for three RBI. For the Suns, Scott Meadows singled twice and Pete Stanicek had a single and triple.