As he stands in the middle of the Camden Yards infield tonight, another honor bestowed upon him, Cal Ripken once again will have the chance to reflect on his career and the people who have meant the most to him.
It hasn't gotten any easier to do it.
Ripken is being inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame, a moment as inevitable and predictable as the sun rising each morning. But the emotion he displayed yesterday during the annual luncheon caught many by surprise.
The final speaker yesterday at the Wyndham Hotel, Ripken immediately became choked up while talking about playing baseball for his hometown team, and couldn't continue when the subject turned to his family, including his father, Cal Sr., who died four years ago.
"I can't look at my mom right now," he said, his voice breaking as he wiped away tears. He tried to go on, but finally gave up and changed the subject.
"Maybe this is a good time to congratulate Bob Brown," he said, looking toward the former public relations director who will receive the Herbert E. Armstrong Award for non-uniformed personnel who made a significant contribution to the organization.
With the laughter and applause easing the tension, Ripken decided to focus most of his speech on his playing days, a strategy intended to keep him from breaking down. He exchanged a few quips with brother Bill, his former double-play partner who provided the usual levity but also became choked up while introducing Ripken.
Almost able to complete his speech without another stoppage, Ripken fought back tears once more while speaking about his wife, Kelly, and children, Rachel and Ryan.
Last week, Ripken entered Triple-A Rochester's Hall of Fame, which provided a small sampling of what close friend Eddie Murray went through during his induction this year in Cooperstown, N.Y.
"These things are a little harder than most people would anticipate," Ripken said earlier in the day. "There were moments where I really enjoyed being singled out and being able to stand in front of you guys and say how great the game of baseball is and being able to impact kids. But when you start talking about yourself as an individual, I think I've had enough of that. But at the same time, it allows you a period of time to look back over your career, be thankful for all the people who were influential, and just review how lucky you were."
Being in Rochester brought back memories of Cal Sr., and more images will flash before Ripken tonight as he becomes the 40th player, coach or manager to join the Orioles Hall of Fame - on the eight-year anniversary of his breaking Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games record.
"You can actually think about your career and really give perspective to it, about how lucky you are and how great it was to fulfill a dream," he said.
"But at the same time, on a personal side, it reminds me of my dad. That was all great, but he's not here anymore, so it makes you miss him."
Bill Ripken again will introduce Cal tonight, and Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson will introduce Brown. Former Oriole Brady Anderson is expected to attend the ceremony.
Ainsworth debut nears
Kurt Ainsworth will have his fifth bullpen session today, this one lasting longer than the others, before facing live hitters next week.
Ainsworth, on the disabled list with a fractured right shoulder blade, said he feels good enough to appear in a game.
"I'm ready to go out there and pitch," he said, "but I'm glad they took it slow. I guess it shows they care."
Double-A Bowie second baseman Mike Fontenot was named the organization's Player of the Month for August after batting .385 with four homers, 19 RBIs and eight steals in 29 games.
Single-A Frederick's John Maine and the Gulf Coast League's Luis Ramirez were chosen co-Pitchers of the Month. Maine went 4-0 with a 2.39 ERA in six starts. Ramirez was 3-0 with a 0.38 ERA in four starts.
Meanwhile, the contract of Single-A Delmarva manager Stan Hough won't be renewed next season. The Shorebirds went 31-39 in the second half, 67-71 overall, after making the playoffs last year under Joe Ferguson.
Bowie pitching coach Dave Schuler, roving outfield/base running instructor Jack Voigt and Gulf Coast field coach Mike Felder also weren't retained.
Around the horn
Reliever Rick Bauer still wasn't available last night because of a sore right arm and shoulder. ... Omar Daal threw a four-inning simulated game, totaling 60 pitches, and demonstrated good command. ... Jerry Hairston might be the designated hitter in his first start after coming off the disabled list. ... Third baseman Jose Leon won't be joining the Orioles from Triple-A Ottawa after being hit in the face by a thrown ball from catcher Geronimo Gil Wednesday and breaking the orbital bone. Leon was covering third on a stolen base attempt. ... The Orioles' seven minor league affiliates went 368-389 this season after finishing 102 games below .500 last year.