By Daniel Gallen The Baltimore Sun
10:34 PM EDT, June 27, 2013
The two Baltimore baseball stalwarts sat at a table at the Four Seasons at the Inner Harbor, reminiscing on the first time they met, their fathers and their playing days.
But the conversation between Cal Ripken Jr. and Orioles manager Buck Showalter quickly turned to the future of the Orioles and, mainly, third baseman Manny Machado.
Speaking to the media between the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation board meeting and the foundation's annual luncheon, where Showalter was the keynote speaker on Thursday, Ripken and Showalter discussed the rising star at great length.
"I think that was the thing we noticed the first time we saw him play up in Aberdeen was just his demeanor," Ripken said. "He almost seemed to have an aptitude for baseball that went beyond his age."
Since his August call-up for the Orioles' playoff run, Machado has become a mainstay in the lineup. Entering Thursday's game against the Cleveland Indians, Machado had started all 80 games at third base and held down the No.2 spot in the batting order.
He'd hit the most doubles before the All-Star break since 1997 (36) and was on pace to break the all-time record of 67 set by Earl Webb in 1931. He also was hitting .319 and had posted hitting streaks of 11 and 14 games.
But what impressed Ripken the most was the way Machado's handled the rise from third overall draft pick at age 17 to starting every day in the majors at 20.
He "just continues to get better and better right before our eyes," Ripken said. "The cool part about it was the strength of his mind, the way he goes about it. There's no bragging, there's no showmanship. It's just he plays the game, and he does it the right way."
Machado had played every inning possible since his major league debut Aug. 9 before his ejection in the fifth inning of Thursday night's game for arguing with home plate umpire Will Little. It was a consistency not unlike what Ripken displayed year after year as he etched his name into the history books. And Machado's not the only one, either. Center fielder Adam Jones and shortstop J.J. Hardy have both started every game for the Orioles in 2013.
"There's such a tone set here with Cal. … It's a mentality that when you're wearing black and orange that started over here with this guy," Showalter said.
It's an impact Ripken still has on the organization despite his retirement almost 12 years ago. And Ripken got it from the man Thursday's luncheon and board meeting honored: his father.
Both Showalter and Ripken spoke about the impact their fathers had on their lives and on the impact the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation has throughout the region and the country. And Showalter made it clear that the elder Ripken's impact is still felt.
"I can remember first game I ever coached in the big leagues, coached third base at old Memorial [Stadium]," Showalter said. "I remember looking over and seeing Cal Sr. there, and going, 'My gosh, if that's what I've got to be, that's going to be quite a challenge.'"
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