“The last thing you want to do is make a big deal about it, but he decided not to go back to South Carolina,” Ripken said Thursday morning before the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation board's annual luncheon. “He’s going to get some playing time in. … It’s a baseball decision more than anything else.”
Ryan Ripken, a 6-foot-6 left-handed first baseman, did not make South Carolina’s 35-man roster this spring and redshirted to save a year of eligibility. The Gamecocks’ depth, however, still limited Ripken’s options heading into next season. South Carolina went 43-20 and fell to North Carolina in the Super Regionals of the NCAA tournament.
Ripken was a 20th-round selection of the Orioles in the 2012 first-year player draft, but he elected to sign with South Carolina instead. Now, Ripken will go the junior college route at Indian River, which finished this season with a 16-25 record.
Indian River had one player taken in the 2013 draft when the Colorado Rockies selected left-hander Alex Rodriguez with 469th overall pick. Since 2000, 31 players have been drafted out of Indian River, including current Orioles outfielder Steve Pearce, who also spent time at South Carolina.
Ripken was named a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association all-star in his senior season at Gilman, when he batted .377 with 25 RBIs and went 4-1 with a 2.30 ERA on the mound. He also led the Greyhounds' basketball team to the MIAA B Conference title his senior year and scored more than 1,000 career points.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who appeared with Cal Ripken Jr. and served as the keynote speaker at Thursday’s luncheon, supported the younger Ripken’s decision. After all, Showalter would know the type of boost junior college could have to a career. Before earning All-America first-team honors at Mississippi State in 1977, Showalter was an All-American at Chipola Junior College in Marianna, Fla.
“Great move,” Showalter said. “I went to junior college. Best baseball move, career move I ever made.”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun