Mazzilli to Sosa: Just be Sammy

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- As a way of introducing himself to
his new teammates, Sammy Sosa slammed about two dozen baseballs far
over the center-field wall during his first workout with the
Baltimore Orioles.

Before he was done, nearly half the squad interrupted their
drills to watch the show.

"Sammy, we're going to run out of balls!" joked outfielder
Larry Bigbie, who watched in awe as one shot after another soared
onto an airfield behind the practice field.

"They'll be parking the planes in the hangars from now on,"
Bigbie said later.

The Chicago Cubs were relieved to get rid of Sosa after his
troubled 2004 season, and the Orioles are delighted to have him.

"I'm in a new house with a young team that I can help," he
said. "I'm very happy to be here, no question. And I can see in
their faces that they're really happy for me to be here."

Sosa came to the Orioles earlier this month in a trade that sent
Jerry Hairston Jr. and two prospects to Chicago. Sosa once was a
hero in the Windy City, but his 13-year stay soured after a series
he was caught using a corked bat, had a rift with Cubs manager
Dusty Baker and left early during the 2004 season finale.

"That page is closed, and I don't want to touch that page no
more," he said. "We're here to move on and go forward."

During his stay in Chicago, Sosa battled with Mark McGwire in a
memorable home run duel in 1998, went to the All-Star game seven
times and was the 1998 NL MVP. But he contends that the corked bat
and his early departure from the ballpark ruined an otherwise
wonderful relationship.

"For the 13 years I was in Chicago, I only made two mistakes.
That's pretty good," he said. "If I had known that leaving early
last year would have caused such a controversy, I would have never
done it. My manager told me I had a day off. But what can I say?"

When the Cubs fell out of playoff contention last season, Sosa
received much the blame. He spent a month on the disabled list with
a bad back and finished with a .253 batting average, 35 homers and
80 RBI -- his fewest since 1994.

Still, 35 homers is more than anyone on Baltimore hit last
season, so the Orioles think he'll be a perfect fit in their tiny
ballpark at Camden Yards.

Upon arriving in Baltimore three weeks ago, Sosa requested that
the Orioles send him a stretch limo at the airport. On Wednesday,
he found his way to camp without the aid of a limousine.

He emerged from his white Range Rover at 9:38 a.m., slipped into
the clubhouse and had a quick chat with manager Lee Mazzilli before
joining his new teammates on the back fields of Fort Lauderdale

"I told him, 'I don't want you to just fit in. Be Sammy. I
don't want you to change," Mazzilli said.

Sosa created a stir in Chicago with a boom-box that ultimately
was destroyed by a teammate. That won't be a problem in Baltimore;
Mazzilli does not allow the players to listen to music before
games, except through headphones.

"That's the rule and they all go by it," Mazzilli said. "If I
listen to your 50 Cent, then you should be able to listen to my
Dean Martin."

From the moment he arrived, Sosa was followed by cameramen and
reporters. He nearly tripped over a photographer upon emerging from
the dugout for the first time, wearing an unfamiliar orange jersey
with the familiar No. 21 on the back.

When he was done, Sosa signed autographs in the main stadium.

Had things gone differently last summer, Sosa still might be
with the Cubs. Had the New York Mets been more aggressive in their
pursuit, he might have been in Port Saint Lucie this spring.

"I think for about a month I was going to the New York Mets. I
think God was looking out for me and drive me in the right
direction," Sosa said. "I want to come to Baltimore for a lot of
reasons. I feel perfect here."