Yanks dad can only watch as Raines Jr. joins enemy O's 2nd base/outfield draftee eyes Griffey-like pairing

Sidelight

June 16, 1998|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

Arriving at both the right place and right time, Orioles sixth-round draft pick Tim Raines Jr. agreed to terms yesterday as his father, New York Yankees left fielder Tim Sr., sat alongside him during a pre-game news conference.

Raines, a high school outfielder-second baseman from Heathrow, Fla., accepted a $90,000 signing bonus from the Orioles and the challenge to become part of the second active father-son combination to play in the major leagues.

"It's a proud day for the Raines family; I never thought that my son would be a professional ballplayer," said Raines, 38, an 18-year major-league veteran who is hitting .301 this season. "God willing, I can stay around long enough so that he can be here with me."

Several times during the conference, Raines Jr. mentioned that his favorite baseball player was not his dad, but another "Junior" -- Ken Griffey Jr. of Seattle.

Griffey Jr. played alongside his father with the Mariners in 1990-91.

Raines, 18, hopes to emulate the younger Griffey, arriving in the majors with his father still active. But yesterday, with the father's arm around the shoulder of the son, pride won out over ambition.

It seemed a tad odd that a Yankees player's son would sign with one of the franchise's fiercest rivals.

"In the end, it doesn't matter," Raines Sr. said. "Baseball is a game where things change from one year to the next."

As for the Junior moniker, Raines Jr. will cling to it with pride. He also intends for it to remind him of the standard he must meet.

"I've just been used to it since Little League," Raines said of the nickname. "[His] are definitely big steps to follow. His career has been exceptional and it gives me something to shoot for."

After fielding several softballs, Raines Jr. answered at least one curve.

Sitting to his right was Orioles scouting director Gary Nickels and area scout Harry Shelton, the men responsible for selecting him with the Orioles' eighth overall selection of the first-year draft.

To his left was his father, who helped draft him into existence.

Where did last night's loyalty lie, Yankees or Orioles?

"Uh, uh, I'm going to have to go with the "

A voice came from the audience: "Your dad's not in the lineup, does that make it any easier?"

"Yeah, I'm going to go with the Orioles," Raines Jr. replied, making a sudden trade unnecessary.

Raines Jr., who had a taste of the good life hanging out in major-league clubhouses of the Montreal Expos, Chicago White Sox and now the Yankees, will begin his professional career this week with the Orioles' Rookie-level Gulf Coast League team in Sarasota, Fla.

The Orioles project Raines as an outfielder with speed and a line-drive bat. However, the club also will give him exposure at second base, the position where his father's career began. Raines Sr. ranks fourth on the all-time stolen base list.

"He reminds me so much of myself," said Raines Sr. "He has the same sort of speed, maybe a little more power than I had. He's probably a little more physical."

Shelton said he was attracted to him as he was working in a camp in Florida. "I saw the running potential, I saw the bat speed, I saw a kid with instincts for the game," Shelton said. "I came home and told my wife, 'I'm going to try to draft this kid one day.' "

Raines Jr. said that it was his exposure to the major-league atmosphere that attracted him to baseball when he was a talented enough athlete to devote his time to other sports.

"It's something that I was around at a young age," Raines Jr. said. "I found something that I wanted to do, and now this is a dream come true."

Pub Date: 6/16/98

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