SARASOTA, Fla. — Hall of Famer Frank Robinson says that he has to remain neutral because of his position in Major League Baseball’s central office, but it was pretty obvious during an unofficial visit to the Ed Smith Stadium complex on Monday that he still bleeds Oriole orange.
Maybe it hasn’t always been so apparent, but he clearly has been touched by the way Baltimore executive vice president Dan Duquette and Manager Buck Showalter have encouraged him to reconnect with the team he led to four World Series, and he is impressed with the way they have revitalized the franchise after a long string of losing seasons.
It was no coincidence that he was wearing an Orioles orange polo shirt when he addressed the players on Monday morning, and he joked that he had pulled it out of his closet after many years because of the recent success of the club.
I told them the last 13 years, I’ve had this shirt in my closet and I didn’t wear it,” he said. “So, I said the last couple of years I broke it out and I wear it now because I’m very proud of what this team did — orange. I’m very proud of this team. They’ve brought back the pride in the Orioles and brought back a lot of good times for us old-timers and it’s just great to see them.”
Robinson said the team’s recent focus on its glory years has made him feel closer to the organization than he has in a long, long time.
After adding two big-ticket free-agent acquisitions over the past week, Baltimore now appears to be focused on locking up shortstop J.J. Hardy to a contract extension.
The Orioles had a face-to-face meeting with Hardy’s representation late last week with the intention of initiating extension talks.
The 31-year-old Hardy, who has been one of the top power-hitting shortstops in the game and is the glue of the Orioles infield, has long said he’d like to remain in Baltimore for the long term.
“It’s something where I feel like they’ve had other stuff going on [before addressing my contract situation],” Hardy said on Monday. “Obviously we’ve made some nice moves here, and I think that’s kind of the main thing to knock out right now, which is fine. It doesn’t bother me one bit.”
Hardy, who was one of two American League players to win Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards last season, is in the final year of a three-year, $22.5-million deal. He becomes a free agent at the end of the season.
“We’ll see where it goes,” Hardy said. “I guess that is the first step.”