Ripken starts own birds nest

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

He names Aberdeen team IronBirds, unveils logo

Matthews starts in center

April 12, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Introducing himself as "a former baseball player," Cal Ripken unveiled the new name and logo yesterday for his short-season minor-league team in Aberdeen that represents the Orioles' seventh affiliate.

Ripken wanted to make a connection to the Orioles, the city of Aberdeen and himself. He chose "IronBirds," a reference to his nickname and the team he played for until retiring after last season, his 21st in the majors.

The logo, a cartoon silver airplane with a blue eye and the No. 8 on the tail, also is a tribute to the Aberdeen Proving Ground, a military testing facility based in Ripken's hometown.

"It's been a very exciting and interesting process looking for the right name," said Ripken, whose team begins play in June and will wear the Orioles' primary orange and black colors.

The plane's number is an obvious reference to Ripken, who wore it throughout his Orioles career. But the blue eye is a tribute to his mother, Vi, who had heart bypass surgery about a month ago and is doing fine.

"She's resumed all the normal things she's used to doing," Ripken said. "She's out and about. As a matter of fact, when she came back from the hospital, she was hungry and decided she was going to stop in a restaurant on the way home. She's very much her old self. In a lot of ways, she's a new person."

The black Aberdeen cap includes the logo, created by Planit Advertising in Baltimore, with the letter "A" in the background. Ripken is hoping to find a name for the mascot.

"An animated plane is probably a little bit of a stretch, but it ties in with the Proving Ground," he said. "The minor-league experience should be a fun one and you should have fun with the logo. We just came into a really nice, friendly character and we knew we were on to something."

The IronBirds will play their home games in Ripken Stadium, which is nearing completion.

"Ticket sales are going well, our sponsorships are doing well," Ripken said. "Everything seems to be moving in the right direction."

The Orioles are moving in another direction without Ripken, whose ownership of the IronBirds has provided a nice distraction from the 2002 season that proceeded without him.

"I didn't sit there during Opening Day and wish that I was down there battling Roger Clemens," he said.

"Retirement has always been the wrong word for a baseball player leaving the game. I'm 41 years old. I'm not wishing that I could go off and live a life of leisure and not work. There are things I want to do. ... It's just a matter of starting the next chapter in your life and seeing where that takes you."

Fans interested in purchasing tickets to Aberdeen's games should call Ripken Baseball at 410-297-9292.

Matthews gets 1st O's start

Orioles manager Mike Hargrove made the first significant change to his lineup last night, starting Gary Matthews Jr. in center field and putting Chris Singleton on the bench.

Hargrove was hoping that Matthews, a switch-hitter, would provide a more favorable matchup against Tampa Bay left-hander Joe Kennedy. Although he wasn't the big bat in a 15-6 win, Matthews did walk twice on an 0-for-3 night. Singleton came on as a defensive replacement and went 1-for-2 with two runs scored to lift his average to .133.

In a bigger Hargrove move, David Segui took the field for the first time this season, playing first base and going 4-for-5.

Matthews, acquired from the New York Mets on April 3 for pitcher John Bale, was 0-for-2 as a pinch hitter before receiving his first start with the Orioles. He laid down a sacrifice bunt in the ninth inning of Wednesday's loss to the Devil Rays.

"You want to get your bench involved and tonight makes sense. We're struggling a little bit swinging the bats, obviously," Hargrove said before the 18-hit explosion.

No. 3 and climbing

Segui now has the third-highest career average against Tampa Bay at .370 (64-for-173), trailing Texas' Ivan Rodriguez (.402) and New York's Jason Giambi (.381).

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