Retirement won't take Bordick far off base

Orioles Plus

Shortstop sees coaching, managing in his future

April 28, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The thought began hitting Orioles shortstop Mike Bordick last season, when a career-threatening shoulder injury came and left him staring at the end.

"What will I do when my playing days are over?" Bordick thought.

The answer was never far from his mind. He'd like to be a coach and perhaps even a manager.

"There's no doubt I'm going to be involved in baseball," Bordick said last week. "I've thought about different career opportunities, and everything keeps coming back to what I know."

From the days when his father coached his Little League teams, to his days polishing the fundamentals at the University of Maine, Bordick has always known baseball.

And few have a story quite like his.

Playing in the Cape Cod League in 1986, after not getting drafted following his junior year at Maine, Bordick happened to have an excellent weekend while an Oakland Athletics scout was in town watching another player.

That scout, current Toronto Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi, asked Bordick if he would like to sign a professional contract.

"I was in the Cape hoping to learn more about the game and go back to the University of Maine for my senior year," Bordick said. "I didn't go down there with the false hopes of signing or anything like that."

Four years later, Bordick was in the World Series, playing alongside Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco.

In 1997, Bordick joined the Orioles and replaced Cal Ripken at shortstop, as Ripken moved to third base. The Orioles traded him to the New York Mets in 2000 then re-signed him after the season to a two-year, $9.5 million contract.

That contract expires after this season. Bordick, batting .125 entering last night, turns 37 in July.

"That's getting up there," Bordick said. "But I feel like I can still run around out there and play at a high level. You have to see, but I'd like to play. If I can contribute, I'll continue to play. We'll kind of evaluate things down the road."

Those evaluations started getting serious last season, when Bordick separated his right shoulder in June trying to turn a double play against the New York Mets. He tried coming back but reinjured the shoulder six weeks later in the first game of a minor-league rehabilitation assignment.

After undergoing surgery in mid-August, Bordick spent the off-season trying to rebuild strength in his throwing arm.

"I thought, what if I can't play baseball anymore?" Bordick said. "What if it doesn't respond the way I want it to? It was a scare with the shoulder, because that's probably the most important thing a baseball player can have, is his arm.

"I think it's in the back of every player's mind if they have an injury like that."

Bordick, who sat out Friday, has played in 20 of the team's first 23 games this season. Though he has hit well below his .261 career average, he has committed just one error and says the shoulder keeps getting stronger.

Part of Bordick's value is intangible. On April 16 at Yankee Stadium, he went to the mound to calm down struggling Orioles pitcher Sidney Ponson. Their conversation lasted much longer than the typical player visit, as Bordick calmly gave Ponson positive thoughts and even made him laugh.

Since that discussion, Ponson had posted a 2.19 ERA, allowing just three earned runs in 12 1/3 innings entering yesterday's start. Orioles bench coach Sam Perlozzo, who has gone to Bordick himself for occasional advice, wasn't the least bit surprised.

"He'd be great with kids," Perlozzo said. "I think he'd be an excellent manager, and I think he'd be an excellent coach. If I managed, I'd ask him to be my infield coach. He doesn't want to hear that right now. I'd rather it not be for a while.

"He'll play for a while; he stays in way too good of shape."

Bordick studied to be a teacher in college and is one semester shy of earning his degree. Finishing that will be a top priority when he retires. "I promised a lot of people that I'd do that," he said. "Myself especially."

As part-owner of two batting cage facilities, Bordick has already dabbled as a hitting instructor. He knows the path toward coaching or managing at the professional ranks would likely send him back to the minor leagues.

First, he'd have to convince his wife, Monica, to put up with more baseball travel. They have four children, all under age 9, and she's already been with him through college, the minors, and 13 seasons in the big leagues.

"I've bounced it off my wife," Bordick said of a potential coaching career. "She said, `Can we just take a year off?' "

When it's time, Bordick will be ready. From his father, to Jack Lincoln at Maine, to Tony La Russa in Oakland, to Mike Hargrove with the Orioles, Bordick has been partial to his share of baseball minds.

And he has soaked up their wisdom like a sponge.

"I've been real lucky in my whole career to be surrounded by good baseball people," Bordick said. "I think baseball's a great sport. When I get done playing, it'd be great to teach kids the way to play it, and kind of give something back."

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