Perhaps no one in the Orioles organization has spent more time on and off the field with Cal Ripken Jr. than the club's head athletic trainer, Richie Bancells.
Bancells, 51, first met Ripken in the minors, and, in 1984, Ripken's third big league season, he joined the major league club. Bancells and Ripken became close friends, working together in the offseasons as well. So when it was time for Ripken to send out invitations for Cooperstown, Bancells got one.
But Bancells was torn. It would mean missing two games, something he doesn't do - especially for a reason not related to family.
"I sort of mulled it over a little bit," Bancells said. "I didn't know which way to go with it, to decide what to do."
He asked team officials and was told not only that he could go but also that he should.
"I am excited about it. I am proud," Bancells said. "I am proud of him and honored that he invited me to go."
In a way, it's more than just a celebration for a friend, but also the culmination of a career that Bancells watched blossom.
"He certainly meant a great deal to me and my career," Bancells said. "So much so that I kind of wonder whether I'll ever have another guy like him, both as a player and as a person."