SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Orioles got a visit on Thursday from Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr., who threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the Grapefruit League game against the Blue Jays. Ripken also signed copies of his new children's book, "Out At Home."
The visit is part of a national book tour for "Out At Home," the fifth installment in the New York Times best-selling "Cal Ripken, Jr.'s All-Stars" series. The series will have six books total and Ripken said he was inspired to create the series because he was an avid reader as a child.
"When you see something in print, it's a whole lot more meaningful and real to you," he said. "And the issues we deal with, they almost seem insulated from them because it's somewhere else. It's in a group of teammates. And [the book] kind of gives solutions on how to help you as a coach, as teammates, that kind of stuff. It's a good learning environment. I always liked having that influence with kids and it's just another way to do that stuff."
Ripken, who was greeted to a thunderous ovation when he threw a strike to current Orioles shortstop J.J Hardy, said he's still confident that Baltimore can be an October club this season despite a quiet winter.
"Things have turned around a lot the past couple years," Ripken said. "It's almost like you should be willing to extend some trust in the decisions and direction of the team is as such that we're a playoff caliber team. And I think that's the best anybody can ask for going in.
"We lost a lot of offense in Nelly Cruz. We lost a good two-way player in [Nick] Markakis. I think the easy answer [to make up for it] would be having [Matt] Wieters and [Manny] Machado, who were out most of last season. There's some logic and reasoning as to what they've done and what they haven't done [this winter]. I still look at this team as a good caliber playoff team."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.