Mike Bordick will no longer be known as the slick-fielding, pesky shortstop for the Oakland A's. He has become The Shortstop Who Replaced Cal Ripken.
That fact was not lost on Bordick when he decided to sign with the Orioles, ensuring Ripken's shift to third base. Bordick, 31, said he pondered the move, and the expectations that come with it, for weeks leading up to the signing. He concluded he was up to the challenge.
"I had a few reservations," Bordick said at a news conference at Camden Yards yesterday. "Obviously, this is a very unique situation. I consider it a tremendous challenge and something I'm very excited about, and obviously a little nervous about.
"I think as a player and as a professional, you like unique challenges. Especially somebody like myself. I think I can raise my level of play."
Ripken issued a statement yesterday indicating he is looking forward to playing with Bordick.
Tony La Russa, Bordick's former manager, said his one-time pupil will have no problem handling the pressure of replacing a living legend.
"He's tough enough to follow Cal," La Russa said. "A lot of guys wouldn't be strong enough mentally, but he's a very tough guy."
Bordick was not some bonus-baby draft pick who got coddled through the minors and had his hand held in the big leagues. Far from it.
He finished a three-year career at the University of Maine in 1986 as a virtual unknown. He appeared in two College World Series, but was never drafted. Instead, he was discovered playing amateur ball in the Cape Cod League. A's scouts were at a game to watch another player, but Bordick stole their attention.
Then came nearly six seasons in the minors, before Bordick finally established himself in the majors in 1991.
"He had to earn everything he got," former A's catcher Terry Steinbach said. "He had to grind and claw his way to where he is today. He remembers that, and Orioles fans will get to see that first-hand every day.
"He's going to be just a tremendous fit to the character of that club. They're very, very lucky to have him."
A's players said Bordick's hard-nosed attitude didn't soften when he hit the majors. Utility man Scott Brosius said Bordick was always the first player on the field for practice.
Brosius and Steinbach used to marvel at Bordick's intensity on the bench. When most players are replaced in games, they return to the cool locker room and watch the rest of the game on TV.
Not Bordick. He would remain in his uniform (almost always muddied and grass-stained) and watch intently.
"Terry would look over to me and tell me how guilty this guy made him feel about how he goes about his business," Brosius said. "He'll never let anyone outwork him."
Bordick is one of the most consistent defensive players in the game, according to A's infield coach Ron Washington, who replaced Ripken at shortstop on Sept. 14, 1987, ending his streak of 8,243 consecutive innings. And though Bordick hit just .240 last year, Washington said Orioles fans will be impressed with Bordick's bat, too.
"Mike has an attitude," Washington said. "He's committed and puts forth the maximum effort."
The Orioles will pay Bordick $2.25 million next season, $3.5 million in 1998 and $3 million in 1999. The deal includes a $250,000 signing bonus and a $3 million option.
Bordick said he's eager to prove he's worth the money and worthy of his new title.
"I think I like to play with a chip on my shoulder," Bordick said. "I think it's healthy to play with a chip on your shoulder and try to motivate yourself every day."
Pub Date: 12/14/96