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O's Belle Not Talking To Press

Albert Belle ended his era of good feeling with the Baltimore media, saying Friday he will no longer speak to reporters before or after games.

Belle made the decision in the wake of coverage of his tirade in the Orioles clubhouse Thursday. The brooding slugger threw two bats -- shattering one of them -- his glove and batting helmet into his locker after a questionable third-strike call in the middle of an exhibition game against the New York Mets.

Asked in the clubhouse Friday for comment on the incident, Belle said, "I'm done. I'm done with you guys."

A reporter then said, "Forever?" and Belle nodded. When asked why, Belle turned around and stared at the ground.

On the day he signed a $65 million, five-year contract with the Orioles in December, Belle smiled broadly and said: "Whereas in the past I have cut the media off completely, I have made great strides to be accessible."

Belle did just that in his first three months with the team. In January he attended a two-day, fan-oriented event in Baltimore, signing hundreds of autographs and speaking openly with the media.

Then, shortly after reporting early to spring training last month, Belle surprised Baltimore reporters by walking into the cramped press room and answering all their questions. Two days later, he accommodated the national media with a lengthy news conference in the Baltimore dugout.

His uncharacteristic friendly nature was the subject of a feature article in Sports Illustrated, and for a while it seemed as if playing in fan-friendly Baltimore would produce a kinder, gentler Albert Belle.

But that no longer appears to be the case, at least as far as beat writers covering the Orioles are concerned.

The press on Friday also received another backlash from the coverage of Belle's tirade -- the Orioles clubhouse was closed during their exhibition game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Team officials instituted the new policy, which is to remain in effect for the remainder of the spring, because Belle lost his cool during the game while a handful of reporters were in the clubhouse waiting to speak to starting pitcher Mike Mussina.

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