Gov. Robert L. Ehrlrich Jr. (R) took some nifty cuts in the batting cage at Orioles Park at Camden Yards yesterday.

As a show of appreciation for his support of the franchise in its bid to achieve financial stability in the wake of the Montreal Expos' move to Washington, Ehrlich was honored by the Orioles before their game against the Yankees.

The Maryland governor took batting practice and fielded grounders in the shadow of the adjacent warehouse beyond the right field wall, which was adorned by a sign that read, "THANK YOU! GOVERNOR EHRLICH."

Ehrlich had a great time swinging at half-speed pitches while Orioles hitting coach Terry Crowley watched from behind the batting cage.

"I was just focusing on hitting the ball," Ehrlich said. "I had Terry Crowley, the best hitting instructor in the major leagues, watching every move. It was a little intimidating."

He didn't hit any over the fence, but he had several solid hits.

"I tried for the line drives," Ehrlich said. "I was getting jammed early. But if I had 75 mile-per-hour fastballs in high school, I'd have been an even better player."

Someone asked Ehrlich what he thought about the influx of Boston and New York fans during the Orioles' final two series.

"It's frustrating and it's embarrassing," he replied. "But it's not terribly surprising, given the season we've had, particularly the second half we've had."

* OBITUARY: Byron "Mex" Johnson, a shortstop for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro leagues and P Satchel Paige's traveling team, died at 94. Johnson died Saturday in Denver. Daughter Jacquelyn Benton said yesterday he had prostate cancer.

Johnson played for the Monarchs in 1937-38, when blacks were barred from the National and American leagues. He joined the traveling team of the legendary Paige in 1939 and stayed through 1940.

Johnson grew up in Little Rock and was nicknamed "Mex" because he wore a sombrero-like hat as a child.

-- From News Services

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlrich Jr. and his son Drew take some practice throws at Camden Yards before the Yankees game.