White Sox

Ripken's mom survives gunpoint scare

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Ripken's mom survives gunpoint scare

From Comcast SportsNet

ABERDEEN, Md. (AP) -- Cal Ripken Jr.'s mother told a neighbor that the man who kidnapped her at gunpoint, tied her up and blindfolded her didn't seem to know she was part of a famous baseball family as the two drove around together in her car.

The gunman, who has not been found, forced 74-year-old Vi Ripken into her silver Lincoln Continental Tuesday morning and she was found bound but unharmed in the back seat about 24 hours later near her home in Aberdeen outside Baltimore, police said.

She described her abductor as a tall, thin white man with glasses wearing camouflage clothing, but police had no other details. The FBI and Maryland State Police were also involved in the investigation.

Ripken told next-door neighbor Gus Kowalewski that the gunman didn't seem to know her son was the Hall of Fame infielder nicknamed "Iron Man" for playing in 2,632 consecutive games during his 21-year career with the Baltimore.

"He said he just wanted money and her car," Kowalewski said.

Investigators do not know the kidnapper's motive and there was no ransom demand for Vi Ripken's release, Aberdeen Police Chief Henry Trabert said at a news conference.

When asked if police believe the kidnapper knew who he was abducting, Trabert did not answer, saying investigators don't know if the suspect has any ties to the Ripken family.

Kowalewski said he spoke with Vi Ripken later Wednesday morning and she told him the gunman tied her hands and put a blindfold on her, but said he wouldn't hurt her.

"He lit cigarettes for her, they stopped for food," Kowalewski said. "He said, I'm not going to hurt you. I'm going to take you back,' and that's what he did."

Kowalewski said Ripken told him the gunman originally planned to put tape over her eyes.

"But he didn't do that because she said please don't do that cause I'm claustrophobic,'" said Kowalewski, a 72-year-old retired autoworker.

Instead, the gunman put some type of mask or blinders on her, and she could see somewhat out the sides, he said.

Three years after voluntarily ending his Iron Man streak, Ripken Jr. retired in 2001. He is the chairman and founder of Ripken Baseball Inc., which he runs along with his brother, Bill.

He owns three minor-league baseball teams, including the Single A IronBirds based at the Ripken Baseball complex in Aberdeen, a middle-class area of about 15,000 people. Kowalewski said Ripken told him the gunman asked her about items in the car related to the Ironbirds and did not seem to know about the team.

Mike Hudson, 43, whose mother lives across the street from Ripken, said he was surprised the kidnapper came back to the neighborhood because police were swarming over the area about midnight.

"It's just hard to believe the guy came all the way back on the street and dropped her off. That makes me believe he was local, very local," said Hudson, who is staying at his mother's house while visiting with his daughter.

Ripken's car didn't appear to be damaged, he said.

"This has been a very trying time for our family, but we are grateful and relieved that mom is back with us, safe and healthy," the Ripken family said in a statement. "We want to thank everyone for their tremendous support, especially all of the law enforcement agencies that worked so hard and quickly."

Ripken's brother, Bill, played second base in the major leagues. The two were managed for a time on the Orioles by their father and Vi's husband, Cal Ripken Sr., who died in 1999.

The family said that it could not comment further due to the ongoing investigation.

After the gunman left, Ripken honked her car's horn until a neighbor found her, Kowalewski said. He said he was surprised the honking didn't wake him up. Someone reported a suspicious car to authorities and she was found, police said.

Vi Ripken is founding chairwoman of the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, which, according to its website, helps to build character for disadvantaged young people. Besides Cal and Bill, she has another son and a daughter.

The Ripken Baseball complex also is home to the annual Cal Ripken World Series for 11- and 12-year-olds. Cal Ripken Baseball is the name for the 5-to-12-year-old division of the Babe Ruth League.

Meet the Prospects: A.J. Puckett

Meet the Prospects: A.J. Puckett

The White Sox rebuild is in full swing. While it might still be a year or two before the big league team is expected to start competing for championships, the minor leagues are stocked with highly touted talent fans will be eagerly following in 2018. With that in mind, it's time to Meet the Prospects and get to know the future of the South Side.

A.J. Puckett

Puckett, the 22-year-old right-handed hurler, came over in one of Rick Hahn's lower-profile moves last summer. While trades with the Cubs and New York Yankees brought back high-profile prospects like Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease and Blake Rutherford, an under-the-radar July move that sent Melky Cabrera to the Kansas City Royals fetched Puckett and left-handed pitcher Andre Davis to bolster the rebuilding effort.

A California native, Puckett was a second-round pick of the Royals in the 2016 draft. He made 11 starts at Class A Lexington in 2016, posting a 3.66 ERA with 37 strikeouts in 51.2 innings of work. Prior to last summer's trade, Puckett made 20 starts for Class A Wilmington, turning in a 3.90 ERA to go with 98 strikeouts in 108.1 innings. After joining the White Sox organization, he made five starts at Class A Winston-Salem, where he had a 4.28 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 27.1 innings.

As of their most recent rankings, MLB Pipeline had Puckett rated as the No. 23 prospect in the White Sox organization.

Get to know Puckett in the video above.

What’s next for Fire after making three trades on draft day?

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USA TODAY

What’s next for Fire after making three trades on draft day?

For much of this winter, it appeared the Fire would enter 2018 with much of the same team that had the third best record in the league in 2017.

There were only minor surprises when the team announced which options it picked up and which players were cut loose. Homegrown signing Grant Lillard was the first addition of the offseason on Jan. 10 and that was expected after he completed his college career.

However, Nelson Rodriguez was apparently busy in the week leading up to the draft and saw that work turned into three trades on Friday. The Fire got two picks in the top 10 and sent away two starters from last year, including key winger David Accam.

There were already holes to fill on the roster, but the exits of Accam and goalkeeper Matt Lampson mean there are a couple more position needs with training camp starting on Monday.

“The roster is very much incomplete,” Rodriguez said after the draft. “There’s still quite a bit of work left to do. While it’s ideal to go into training camp with something that more closely resembles the roster that you’re looking to get into the season with. In our case, it is more important that we continue to add pieces that we think fit our style, fit our mentality, fit our philosophy and it’s important now that we remain disciplined in that pursuit and not feel pressure to just close the deal.”

A look at a potential starting lineup based on the current roster isn’t by any means bad, but it does need some improvement to match or improve upon last year.

Bastian Schweinsteiger and Dax McCarty again give the Fire an elite central midfield pairing, Nemanja Nikolic is back after winning the Golden Boot in his first year and the defense should be somewhat solid depending on how Lillard and Jonathan Campbell fill in for the departed Joao Meira. However, goalkeeper is a question mark with Richard Sanchez and Stefan Cleveland having two MLS appearances between them and Nikolic needs help in the attack with Accam and Arturo Alvarez gone and Michael de Leeuw and Djordje Mihailovic expected to be out until at least July while recovering from torn ACLs.

Seeing Accam leave seemed like an inevitability at some point after years of rumors and complaints. Now that it’s a reality, it’s up to Rodriguez and the Fire to deliver an attack that can be productive without him after he had 14 goals and eight assists last year.

Second-year player Daniel Johnson is the immediate fill-in for Accam. He showed flashes of his potential last year as a rookie, but was limited to 125 after dealing with multiple injuries in 2017. Jon Bakero has the ability to step in underneath Nikolic, but that is an important role to throw at a rookie. The Fire’s dip at the end of last season coincided with de Leeuw’s injury so getting production out of that spot will be important.

The Fire could probably do just fine with one of Johnson or Bakero playing significant minutes in the first half of the season, but both? That’s asking an awful lot out of inexperienced players and it’s why the attack is likely where other moves will come.

Rodriguez said after the draft that there had been more trades in the works and some may still happen.

“We were very aggressive in Florida and here in Philadelphia in trying to make trades within the league and we were unsuccessful,” he said. “Some of those opportunities were by design, by our pursuit. There are still some opportunities which we wish to continue exploring and we will continue to make efforts.”

Rodriguez said the Accam trade gave the team “a lot of flexibility.” The allocation money gives the Fire an expanded salary cap of sorts to work with. Rodriguez said it “further opens up targets in the league” and he also added that they have specific players in mind.

“We also have three targets in particular outside of MLS,” he said. “I would say it’s possible given our current stated resources, our salary budget against the cap, it’s possible to potentially add two of those. Again, those are international deals. You first have to get the deal done before you can worry about the salary budget implications, but we will continue to be deliberate in our actions and disciplined in our attention.”

The Fire's roster is at 21, with two of those going to miss half the season due to injury, after finishing last season with 30.