Cal Ripken Jr. and Eddie Murray were back together again Friday night. Jokes were cracked and smiles were frequent as the former teammates reminisced about being raised "the Oriole Way," and talked about the resurgence of an Orioles franchise they expect to contend again in 2014.
Murray was honored by Ripken and the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront, along with Japanese baseball legend Sachio Kinugasa and New Jersey high school basketball coach Bob Hurley Sr.
But as Murray and Kinugasa joined Ripken at a press conference announcing the honorees, Murray joked, "You people just came to see him."
Murray and Kinugasa, who flew in from Japan for the foundation's 10th annual Aspire Gala, were the men of the night, though, not Ripken, who said he chose Murray because he wanted to celebrate both his "special relationship" with Ripken's father and his Hall-of-Fame career.
Kinugasa, known as the "Iron Man" of Japan, was recognized for his career accomplishments, as well.
"In the end, it's about honoring the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, but these guys represent what Dad was all about," said Ripken, who broke Kinugasa's world record for consecutive games played in 1996. Kinugasa passed New York Yankees legend Lou Gehrig in 1987.
Of course, Ripken and Murray obliged when asked about Orioles baseball.
Murray, who said he wished he had been able to play his whole career in Baltimore, said he was pleased to see the Orioles return to the playoffs and the buzz return to Camden Yards two seasons ago.
"That's a beautiful ballpark still, and I think a lot of the time people were just waiting for a winner," the 57-year-old said. "It was nice to see that ballpark filled with the color orange."
Ripken agreed that it has been "wonderful to see that resurgence" and he believes the Orioles, who missed the playoffs in 2013 despite finishing with a winning record, will be competitive again this season.
"You can't predict, you can't say that they're going to make the playoffs. The best thing you can say is that they're a playoff-caliber team," the 53-year-old former shortstop said. "They still have to go out and play, but it's been wonderful the past couple of years to see what [manager] Buck [Showalter] has accomplished with the group of players that are there now."
One of those players is slugging first baseman Chris Davis, who hit a franchise-record 53 home runs in 2013. Murray, a former first baseman who knew a thing or two about smacking baseballs, said that Davis "is out of my league."
"If he makes contact, he is going to hit it out," Murray, who hit 504 career homers, said with an incredulous chuckle.
And because a microphone was in front of Ripken, he was asked about his desire to return to the major leagues as a manager or in a front-office position. Ripken playfully cut off a reporter when he saw where the question was headed.
"Uh-oh. Am I going to manage some place or come back to the big-league game? Is that the question?" said Ripken, who does analysis in the broadcast booth for TBS. "And now I always have to pause before I answer this question because I wonder what the ramifications might be."
Ripken, who has enjoyed spending time with his family since retiring in 2001, said that there is a "side of me that is very interested" in returning to professional baseball, but he doesn't know in what capacity.
"The timing is getting a little clearer," Ripken said. "Really, all I've said in the past was that I would be open to an opportunity. If you have a job you'd like to discuss, we'll meet outside. Other than that, I have no definite plans. I have no strategy in which to do all this. But if the phone was to ring, I would answer it."
Then Ripken, Murray and Kinugasa smiled for the cameras one more time before heading to the gala to recognize the honorees.