Van Slyke happy being a child of baseball

A. J.

June 11, 1995|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,Contributing Writer

When A. J. Van Slyke is at home, he helps run the household and gets to tell his younger brothers what to do. At school, A. J. stands out as Andy Van Slyke's son.

In the Orioles' clubhouse, A. J. is just a ballboy.

"It's a drop in your status," said A. J., 11, who is in his first year as an Orioles batboy. "But I think it's taught me something."

A. J. learned early that life came with a lot of privileges as the son of Andy, who is in his 12th major-league season and with his third club.

During the summer, he travels with his father. In recent years, he visited National League stadiums; this season, A. J. looks forward to seeing American League parks.

Besides the travel, A. J., who was a batboy for the Pittsburgh Pirates for three years, has met Andy's former teammates, Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla, and now is the target of good-natured ribbing from Cal Ripken and Chris Hoiles.

A. J. also has Camden Yards as a backyard. A. J., who plays catcher for his Little League team, shows that he is his father's son by running down fly balls in the outfield during batting practice.

But it's a life that has lost some of its original excitement.

"I've just gotten used to it," A. J. said. "Like yesterday, Jim Palmer was in the clubhouse. A couple of years ago, I might have been like: wow, a Hall of Famer. Now it's like: oh, there's Jim Palmer."

A. J. has had to make adjustments not common for kids his age. In previous years, he has had to switch schools from St. Louis to Pittsburgh when the season started. From the start, everyone recognizes who his dad is and treats A. J. differently.

Being a major-leaguer's son also has advantages. His father always is around in the mornings. A. J. plays catch with a famous center fielder every day. He even made ESPN by blowing bubbles during last Sunday's game against the Oakland Athletics.

"There are a lot of great things about being the son of a ballplayer," A. J. said. "I meet a lot of great players who I really admire. I get to see games up close. Everything is great, except the fans yelling at me for balls or to get them autographs."

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