"He doesn't act like he was ever in the big leagues. He's just a good guy," said Travis Hake, the Barnstormers shortstop. "He's a professional guy on and off the field."
Hake grew up near Red Lion, Pa., about an hour's drive north of Camden Yards. He attended five to 10 Orioles games each year, and he remembers Minor - mainly as the guy who replaced Ripken the day the streak ended.
"I mess with him now. I tell him I was his biggest fan," Hake joked. "He always laughs and tells me to shut up."
Hake said Minor doesn't regale the team with stories from the big leagues, but occasionally one slips out. Like the constant pressure of replacing Ripken.
"He told me he could hear guys from the upper deck yelling, `We want Cal. You [stink],'" Hake said. "That's got to be hard. When you feel the fans don't want you, that's a tough situation."
As Minor's career unfolded at Camden Yards, the taunts increased. He still hears them occasionally in the Atlantic League. Sometimes, hecklers will bring up Ripken. Other times, they'll make puns on his last name.
"Even in the offseason, we'll go out to the bar or to dinner or something and you'll have the occasional guy come up and pop off a little bit," Minor said. "A lot of times, they want to call you a failure and they like to comment about how you never really amounted to anything, little stuff like that. It's just water off my back; it doesn't bother me a bit."
In the end, only one thing matters in pro baseball: putting up numbers.
Despite the obvious talent, Minor didn't do that in the majors.
"I just think he didn't adjust to pitchers that well," said Miller, his former manager. "To me, it looked like if someone threw three pitches in a row, by the third he'd be right with you. But if they alternated on him, he never really picked up the pitch."
And he's not putting up eye-popping numbers in the Atlantic League. Entering last night's game, he was batting .261 with seven homers and 24 RBIs in 157 at-bats for Lancaster.
He hasn't given up yet, though. And Lancaster's manager, former big leaguer Tommy Herr, admires that drive.
"I'm sure he feels like by continuing to play, somebody somewhere might ... give him a shot back in the big leagues, that is what he is looking for," Herr said. "He is not going to get that chance sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring."
Minor understands a comeback is improbable. He jokes that even his agents have "forgotten my number." But he wants one more shot at the affiliated minors. Or he'd be willing to play in Japan, where his twin brother, Damon, a former major leaguer, is.
If not, he'd like to coach. Maybe in the minors, maybe in college. Baseball is his life. He doesn't want it to end. For that, he makes no apologies.
"It hasn't been the smoothest ride. It hasn't been the best one," he said. "But I have enjoyed it. I've enjoyed everything I have done and I wouldn't change anything because I have had a chance to play and continue playing, and that's all I could ask for."
Born: Jan. 5, 1974
Basketball career: Big Eight Conference Player of the Year as a junior. Drafted in second round by 76ers in 1996. Cut by 76ers and played in CBA.
Baseball career: Has played 142 games in the majors. Played in Orioles, Expos, Mariners, Dodgers and Marlins organizations.
Top AL prospects in 1998
Orioles, Ryan Minor, 3B
Yankees, Eric Milton, LHP
Red Sox, Brian Rose, RHP
Blue Jays, Roy Halladay, RHP
Devil Rays, Matt White, RHP
Indians, Sean Casey, 1B
Twins, Luis Rivas, SS
White Sox, Mike Caruso, SS
Tigers, Juan Encarnacion, OF
Royals, Dee Brown, OF
Angels, Troy Glaus, 3B
Athletics, Ben Grieve, OF
Mariners, Ryan Anderson, LHP
Rangers, Ruben Mateo, OF
Source: Baseball America