Where players dig in affects families, too

May 29, 2000|By Ken Rosenthal

No-trade clauses wouldn't be the only obstacle if the Orioles decided to trade veterans for prospects. Other, more personal considerations almost certainly would give Orioles owner Peter Angelos pause.

Left fielder B.J. Surhoff twice signed with the Orioles partly out of his desire to secure better care for the second of his four children, Mason,8, who has a form of autism.

First baseman Will Clark also has a son with a form of autism, William III (Trey),4, and said that "it's a definite help" to play in Baltimore because of the treatment and therapy available for his only child.

Both players understand the cold reality of the business, that trades are part of most players' existences, that families can be uprooted at virtually any time.

In the end, the Orioles will do what they must, and if they can attract quality young players for Surhoff and Clark, they probably shouldn't hesitate to make the deals.

Still, the idea of trading Surhoff is particularly discomforting.

Surhoff, 35, signed with the Orioles onDec. 20, 1995, after turning down more money and greater security from his former team, the Milwaukee Brewers. His wife, Polly, said the next season that Surhoff's concern for Mason was "75percent" of his decision.

"Had I thought it was better for him to stay [in Milwaukee], we would have stayed," Surhoff said then.

But the Surhoffs believed Mason had a better chance to become part of the mainstream in Baltimore, and that is indeed what has transpired: Mason now attends a mainstream school in Baltimore County.

The Surhoff children range in age from5 to 9. B.J. re-signed with the Orioles on Dec.4, 1998, rejecting a slightly better offer from Pittsburgh for a three-year, $13.5million deal that includes a vesting option and partial no-trade protection.

"Irritated" last winter by reports that he might be traded to the New York Mets, Surhoff listed that team as one of six to which he cannot be traded, along with Pittsburgh, Seattle, Los Angeles, Toronto and Montreal.

"It's not just because of my one son that I decided to stay here," Surhoff said. "All of my kids are entrenched here now.

"If something had happened, or will happen, where I wasn't here, obviously it's something players go through. Most people don't think about how disruptive it can be. All they see is the player on the field.

"Would it be disruptive to my family? No question. Would it be more disruptive for my second son? Probably. But it would be hard on all of us. It would be hard on my wife. It would be hard on me."

The problem is the Orioles might never be in better position to move Surhoff, even though he's in a 17-for-111 slump and batting only .235 on the season.

If they don't trade him this season, they might never trade him - Surhoff will gain the right to block any deal as a 10-year veteran with five years of service with the same club at the end of the 2000 campaign.

Should he remain an Oriole, he will need to play 120 games or make 327plate appearances in 2001 to automatically vest his $4.5 million option for 2002.

Given the choice, the Orioles probably would prefer to trade center fielder Brady Anderson. But Anderson enjoys blanket no-trade protection by virtue of both his contract and 10-and-5 status.

What if the Yankees intensified their recent interest in Anderson or Surhoff? Anderson said last week that he might be willing to waive his no-trade clause. Surhoff could not block a trade to the Yankees - or to 22 other teams.

"If that bridge has to be crossed, I'll cross it," said Surhoff, who was born in theBronx and graduated from Rye (N.Y.) High School in nearby Westchester. "I've never really made contingency plans before. I've never been traded.

"I would try to have [my family] with me as much as possible. It's important for them and me. The more years you spend as a parent, the more you realize how important it is, how important it is for [children] to have their parents around."

How beneficial is it for Mason to be in Baltimore?

"It's beneficial for all of them, him obviously more," Surhoff said. "We try not to separate them [in our minds]. The other three adjust probably easier than he would.

"I don't know. Maybe we would have found what we needed in Milwaukee. But the people that have worked with him here have been a fit, and he has flourished here."

The same is true of Clark's son, who was 3 when he moved to Baltimore, and has since started talking - a development that may or may not have occurred if Clark's career had taken him to another city.

Clark,36, is in a different position from Surhoff - he will be a free agent after this season, and can be traded without his consent. But he, too, would prefer to avoid anything that might disrupt his son.

"You don't have too many guys like George Brett, Mike Schmidt and Tony Gwynn playing their whole careers in one city - moving may be part of a baseball career now," Clark said.

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