Bordick back with O's, leading by example

In his new role, he'll teach minor leaguers the 'little things'

March 22, 2010|By Dan Connolly | Baltimore Sun reporter

SARASOTA, FLA. — When Miguel Tejada was a minor leaguer in the Oakland A's organization in the 1990s, he heard Mike Bordick's name every day. It was almost always in the context of how to do things the right way.

"Every time the instructors made some comment about infielding, they would always point to him as an example," Tejada said.

Back then, Tejada was a bit intimidated by Bordick, the A's starting shortstop who Tejada essentially replaced in 1997 when Bordick left for Baltimore as a free agent.

"I didn't get a whole lot of chance to talk to him because he was in the big leagues and I was in the minor leagues," Tejada said. "But we looked up to him. He was good, too."

In 2004, Tejada joined the Orioles as a free agent, filling a shortstop hole that Bordick vacated in 2002. Their paths crossed occasionally, but they never spent much time together.

Flash forward to last week on a back field at the Ed Smith Complex.

Tejada, 35 years old and trying to reinvent himself as the Orioles' new third baseman, took grounder after grounder from Bordick, the organization's first-year minor league offensive instructor.

"It's funny, now here we are kind of the same field together, same uniform anyway," Bordick said. "It is neat and it is fun to watch him. And I know he is going to step up to the challenge at third base."

This is also a little strange, admits Bordick, 44.

His heir apparent way back when is now the Orioles' aging third baseman.

The club's veteran second baseman, Brian Roberts, is the same rookie kid that Bordick gave a pair of Mizuno spikes to when he was in his first big-league camp in 2001.

"I am probably the only guy in here who played with him. I enjoy having him back," Roberts said. "A lot of guys probably don't know him the way I know him. He is such a fun guy to be around, loves the game, and was a big part of helping me."

Although he has been in spring camp since it opened in mid-February, Bordick's responsibility this year will have little to do with major leaguers. He was hired to help coordinate offensive fundamentals at every step in the minors, teaching things like bunting and situational hitting to the up-and-comers.

Some of the players he'll be instructing weren't alive when he broke into the majors with the A's in 1990 as a non-drafted free agent. He turned that opportunity into a 14-season career in the big leagues, which included parts of six years with the Orioles.

"I think he has a lot of wisdom and a lot of great things to share with the young guys if they will listen," Roberts said. "He went from an undrafted guy that people didn't think would ever play pro ball to a guy who some may not have thought would hit in the big leagues to someone who hit 20 homers.

"He has been through a lot of things and has overcome a lot of things and he did it the right way and worked hard. I think having him in this organization is great for us."

Perhaps the biggest challenge, Bordick said, will be connecting with this generation of players a group that may not be as baseball-savvy as his contemporaries.

"I think that is tough on all coaches. I think (today's) players care about the game, I do," Bordick said. "But this period of time, with so many social distractions, guys don't maybe have that instinctive baseball stuff that you learned on the sandlot. They may have picked up things from playing Major League Baseball 2010 (video game). Guys have skills, they can hit a ball a mile, they have strong arms and can catch a ball, but there are a lot of instinctive things that I think possibly these guys may be lacking."

That's where he is expected to come in and take charge.

Bordick was a baseball rat, an undersized kid from the University of Maine who made it to the majors because he excelled at the basics. He became one of the best bunters in baseball. He rarely made mental errors and didn't make many physical ones either, setting a record for consecutive errorless games (110) as a shortstop in 2002.

After experiencing a lack of fundamentals at the big league level in 2009, an organizational decision was made that things had to change from rookie level on up. The Orioles created the roving coordinator position and Bordick, who lives in Baltimore and had been an infield instructor with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2009, was an obvious choice.

"Bordick was hired to help teach a winning style of baseball to minor league players," Trembley said. "That it is more than just the obvious. It is the little things, working the runners, how to position yourself in the field, et cetera."

Bordick hasn't assumed those responsibilities yet. Right now, he is helping wherever he is needed, learning how Trembley runs camp so he can keep the instruction uniform throughout.

Once he starts working with the minor leaguers exclusively, he said he hopes to be part instructor and part mentor. He also wants to stress doing extra work, something that carried him through his career. His ultimate goal now that his playing days are long gone is to be a small part of the Orioles' resurgence while his players experience what he did in 1997, when the club nearly made the World Series.

"I know how the city is when they win and I know how bad it is when they lose and how desperate the fans want winning baseball back," Bordick said. "So it feels good to put the bird on again and know that I can possibly help to do something to try and get things going back in the right direction."

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