Baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. talks about working with MLB and Ripken Baseball to help kids learn the game of baseball and life skills. (Baltimore Sun video)
NASHVILLE, TENN. — Orioles Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. has served as one of baseball's best ambassadors both as a player and in retirement. Now, Major League Baseball is enlisting Ripken to help unite youth baseball and softball organizations to create more interest in the sports.
During a news conference at the winter meetings Monday afternoon, Ripken was named special adviser to the commissioner on youth programs and outreach.
Ripken will work with baseball commissioner Rob Manfred and MLB's youth programs department regarding strategies and initiatives aimed at growing interest in baseball and softball at the amateur and youth levels.
There will be a specific focus on building playing opportunities for children in underserved communities.
"One of the reasons that Cal was so appealing to us in this role is … his willingness to work with the variety of organizations out there to just develop the best possible practices to give kids the best experience when they're playing the game," Manfred said.
Ripken said one of his focuses will be helping to expose children to the game at a younger age and advocate that kids grow up playing different sports.
"I know [there's] the popularity of football and basketball … and in the area I'm from, lacrosse is a real big growing sport," Ripken said. "I think if you can get the concept of exposing or trying sports earlier, not get locked into one [is important]. So I guess in some way, baseball is competing with other sports. I'd like to say your athleticism can be developed by playing other sports.
"Basketball gave me a sense of quickness and explosiveness and jumping. Soccer gave me a chance to have agility and balance in areas where you don't have in another sport because you don't use your hands all that much. ... I think just trying to get more exposure and changing the mindset that you don't have to specialize so early."
Ripken, who owns businesses that promote baseball, said he's excited about having the opportunity to unite other organizations with the same goal.
"I just think MLB has such power around with all the kids and the influence, and a lot of players tend to act by themselves," Ripken said. "So, the idea that MLB is gluing all those players together, the players association and MLB is working in conjunction for this initiative and I think that's really healthy, too.
"Because it starts to organize and get all the players who have time and value that can give back, you can really look at it more as a business as opposed to just everybody acting on their own. The excitement of getting everybody together and having a much bigger effect is exciting to me."
MLB and the players union launched a new initiative in July focusing on programs that promote the growth of youth baseball and softball programs in the U.S. and Canada.
Since retiring from playing in 2001, Ripken has been dedicated to the growth of youth baseball. Ripken Baseball runs youth baseball and softball programs and tournaments across the country, including at his Aberdeen complex and locations in South Carolina and Tennessee.
The Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, which is named in honor of Ripken's father, uses baseball-based programs to draw youth to the game in underserved areas. The program has built more than 50 youth development parks -- multipurpose fields in areas of need that give children a safe place to play sports -- across the country.
"By and large, the goal was to spread the good word, get more kids playing and have them play baseball longer," Ripken said. "I think we've accomplished that in many different areas. Sometimes, it feels like we're all going in different directions, which is why I'm so happy with the formalization through the commissioner's office that you're using MLB at the top to say how important it is and glue everyone together with the same mission."
Orioles minor leaguer Tanner Scott was named to the Arizona Fall League Top Prospects Team, selected by the league's managers and coaches.
The 21-year-old Scott, the Orioles' sixth-round draft pick in 2014 out of Howard Junior College in Texas, was one of two relievers to make the top prospects team.
He posted a 2.00 ERA in the fall league, allowing just two runs over nine innings while recording 10 strikeouts and allowing six hits. Seven of his eight appearances were scoreless and he held opposing hitters to a .194 batting average.
In his first full professional season, Scott was 4-3 with a 3.83 ERA in 18 games (three starts) between short-season single-A Aberdeen and Low-A Delmarva. He struck out 60 batters and allowed just 35 hits over 42 1/3 innings.
Scott is a rare power arm who could move up the ladder quickly.
Winter meetings auction
This year's annual winter meetings charity auction, which has raised nearly $500,000 for various causes over its previous three years of existence, was unveiled Monday.
Proceeds of the auction will go to Stand Up To Cancer, the Do It For Durrett Foundation -- which is in honor of late ESPN.com Texas Rangers beat writer Richard Durrett, who died suddenly last year -- and the YouCaring page for South Florida Sun-Sentinel Miami Marlins beat writer Juan C. Rodriguez, who is battling a brain tumor.
Orioles auction items include a spring training workout and lunch with vice president Brady Anderson and an opportunity to be a public address announcer at a spring training game in Sarasota, Fla.
Also up for bid is a behind-the-scenes Orioles experience in which the winner can sit in on manager Buck Showalter's pregame news conference, watch batting practice from the field, visit various spots in the press box (writing press level and the TV and radio booths) and watch part of the game with executive vice president Dan Duquette.
Other auctions include a hiking trip with Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder A.J. Pollock, beer brewing with Minnesota Twins closer Glen Perkins, a round of golf with Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer, a fishing trip with Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash, lunch with Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Glavine and a meet-and-greet with Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully.
No new Hall of Famers
None of the 10 candidates from the pre-integration era considered by the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee this week received enough votes to be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
The 16-member committee -- which included former Orioles general manager Pat Gillick and MASN broadcaster Gary Thorne -- reviewed a ballot of 10 players, managers, executives and umpires for induction. Players for the pre-integration ballot were chosen from the time of the origin of baseball through 1946.
Players on the ballot were selected by a Baseball Writers' Association of America-appointed historical review committee that includes former Baltimore Sun writer Jim Henneman.
None of the 10 received the 75 percent of the vote need to earn election. Doc Adams received the most, earning 10 of 16 votes (62.5 percent).
Outfielder-first baseman Harry Stovey, who played parts of two years with the old National League Baltimore Orioles in 1892 and 1893 as part of a 14-year career at the end of the 19th century, received 50 percent of the vote (eight of 16).
"You have to continue to make good decisions and collect talent and then go out and play, so each year there are new challenges. And I'm guessing this year, the challenge of losing key players or the potential of losing key players would make you scramble a little bit. But last year, they had a little bit of a bubble, but they still finished 81-81. And I look at that as a successful season. They were in a position to make a run. Just had bad timing and a little bit of a losing streak. … When they have to make some decisions, they're going to make some, so yeah this is probably a pivotal offseason."
--Ripken when asked whether this offseason is a pivotal one for the Orioles