SARASOTA, Fla. --- Cal Ripken was at Ed Smith Stadium on Tuesday promoting his new children’s book, “Squeeze Play.” During a media session, he was asked about one of his successors.
The Orioles have had a number of great shortstops. Ripken is the best, but J.J. Hardy is on the list. Before Tuesday’s game, Ripken warmed up for his first pitch by playing catch with Hardy. Mark the Iron Man as a Hardy admirer.
“He does it without a lot of fanfare. He does it consistently. He makes all of the plays and is in the right spot all the time. And it doesn’t going to go unnoticed to me,” Ripken said. “Being able to see him in an Orioles uniform gives you a chance to see him a little bit more every day and you fully start to appreciate what his presence means in the middle of that lineup, in the middle of that field. He is a very good shortstop – I don’t know if you know that or not,” Ripken joked.
He’d like to see the Orioles extend Hardy.
“Think about what you have now. You have one of the best shortstops in the league playing shortstop for you every day, being productive. And then you have a young kid [Manny Machado] next to him that has proved out that he can be considered one of the best third basemen in the league. So you have a great left side of the infield. So who wouldn’t want that? Now having said that if JJ goes down to injury or J.J. ends up moving on, it’s interesting to look at the skills set that Manny Machado brings. And to project him at the position,” Ripken said.
“I’m not in the inner meetings of Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette and kind of thinking about what they are doing. I’m saying it from a shortstop’s perspective seeing a skills set that Manny brings and the strength of arm. At some point it would be interesting to see him apply those types of skills to the position of shortstop. But if you had a choice of having those two guys for five, six more years, that’s a pretty good left side of the infield.”
Ripken spent his entire career in the American League, and only in the last five years was there interleague play. As a broadcaster with TBS, Ripken gets to see the National League.
“I really enjoyed being around the St. Louis Cardinals last year. It’s interesting to see the youth and how the youth was embraced at the big league level. And some of their organizational philosophies were pretty cool to witness first hand,” Ripken said.
“Individual players around the league I tend to peek in on Troy Tulowitzki every once and a while to see his skill set because he is a big strong guy and has a unique set of skills where he almost plays in a running style similar to smaller shortstops. He has different gears, which I found fascinating. And he’s a thinker in that position, so I like talking to him.
“You know, the Bryce Harpers and the Mike Trouts, they are interesting. The success they have had at such an early age and the way that they keep modifying and evolving their games. That’s really interesting to watch. So I can’t say that I have a favorite team that I am following around or a favorite player. I am a fan of the game but some of those storylines kind of interest me,” Ripken said.