Ripkens' minor league challenge has a major revenge component

February 16, 2005|By PETER SCHMUCK

FORMER ORIOLES second baseman Bill Ripken can only hope it's true that what goes around eventually comes around, because he has issued a rather interesting challenge.

Ripken unfortunately remembers that I was the Orioles beat writer for The Sun during a good portion of his Orioles career, and - as athletes are prone to do - only seems to recall that I occasionally was critical of the team's performance during the early 1990s.

That seems like a long time ago to me, but it is fresh enough in the minds of the brothers Ripken that they have devised an evil plan to get revenge, and Bill was on the phone Monday explaining why it would be only fair that I went along on their new minor league fantasy bus tour (May 11-15) and subjected myself to several days of abuse under the direction of some of the players from that period.

"Now, it's our turn," he said. "We're going to put out a daily newspaper, and I'm not just going to be a sports reporter. I'm going to be a columnist."

That is a frightening development in itself. If you're a regular reader of our Kickoff page, you know that we often run guest columns under the heading of "Other Voices." During his baseball career, Bill was enough of a character that I sometimes thought there were a few other voices in his head, but he now enjoys a busy retirement helping run the various Ripken enterprises, which includes the minor league fantasy camp.

I've got to admit it's a fun concept. Rather than just have 100 players show up at some spring training facility for a five-day camp, Ripken Baseball came up with the idea of turning it into a bus tour that will stop for games at several minor league stadiums in Maryland and New York.

"We wanted to give them a taste of what it was like for us coming up," Ripken said. "We're taking buses and we'll be staying at the Motel 8 and you have a roommate. And if Ben McDonald decides that his team is going to have a midnight curfew, then you better be in bed by midnight."

McDonald has signed on to manage one of the teams, along with fellow former Orioles Joe Orsulak, Mike Bordick, Jeff Reboulet and Ken Gerhart, which can mean only one thing - they had better line up a beer sponsor if they want to make any money off this deal.

There will be some other guest coaches and a few cameo appearances, perhaps even one by a certain out-of-shape newspaper columnist. Negotiations (blackmail is such an ugly word) are ongoing.

"I'd like to see if you can wield a bat as good as you wield that pen," Ripken said.

Right here is where I'm supposed to act all humble, because I've been put on the spot by all those players I used to cover, but humble is not in my repertoire, so I'll just put my cards on the table. I can flat-out hack, so if you want me to show up, you better order some extra baseballs, because I'm going to lose a few.

Here's another story from the I-was-born-too-early file. Westminster College in Utah has announced a new winter study program for students who want to spend a fun semester in the cold country. The college credits are fully transferable, and the program comes with unlimited lift tickets to popular ski destinations Snowbird and Alta, as well as several day trips to enjoy the other winter amenities in the area that hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics.

No word on whether the college will also offer a visiting professor program for journalism professionals, but it sounds like a pretty good idea to me.

The Potomac Cannons announced this week that they are changing their name to the Potomac Nationals, to reflect their affiliation with the newly relocated major league team in Washington. In a related development, the minor league Nationals immediately asked the citizens of Woodbridge, Va., to authorize construction bonds for baseball's first $500 million Single-A ballpark.

This not really just in: Former baseball superstar Jose Canseco has signed to write his second tell-all book, in which he reveals the Michelin Man was just 5 feet 6 and 145 pounds before he began using oral steroids.

"I couldn't inject him," Canseco said, "or he would have popped."

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