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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.

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Dwight Howard shares his first health update since back surgery

Dwight Howard shares his first health update since back surgery

Three weeks removed from back surgery to take care of his nagging gluteal injury, Dwight Howard rejoined the Washington Wizards for their Tuesday night contest with the Atlanta Hawks inside State Farm Arena. 

"Physically, I'm a lot better than I was before the surgery. The nine games I played, I basically played on one leg. So, you know, I'm just happy that that's out the way and I can rehab and get ready for the second half of the season," Howard told NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller. 

During those nine games, the 33-year-old averaged 12.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, while shooting over 62% from the floor. 

Howard is no stranger to back surgery. In 2012, the then Orlando Magic center underwent a procedure to repair a herniated disk which ended his season and took him out of Summer Olympics (London) participation. 

The veteran now deals with a slow recovery process before returning to basketball activities. 

Right now, the only I can do for rehab is just walk. Anybody who has had back surgery, they understand that. You know, for the first month and a half, you can't lift weights. You can't run. You can't do anything but basically walk. 

Howard plans to remain in Atlanta for rehab. Three weeks ago, Washington said it would re-evaluate Howard after two or three months. 

"Every day I try to sit down, and you know, spend at least an hour visualizing, you know, getting healthy, but also returning to the court."

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Wizards fold late, fall to Trae Young and Hawks in Trevor Ariza's debut

Wizards fold late, fall to Trae Young and Hawks in Trevor Ariza's debut

The Washington Wizards lost to the Atlanta Hawks 118-110 on Tuesday night. Here are five observations from the game...

1. When the Wizards smashed the Lakers on Sunday night and John Wall dropped 40 points, the team's social media naysayers collectively yawned, 'Let's see them do the same against Atlanta on Tuesday.' Sure enough, those people were right.

Wall and the Wizards did not bring anything close to the same energy against Atlanta that they had vs. L.A. Because the Hawks are terrible, the Wizards were able to hang around until the fourth quarter, but Atlanta pulled away with 36 points in the final frame.

There was plenty not to like about this game from the Wizards' side of things. They shot just 33.3 percent from three (13-for-39) and missed 11 of their 36 free throw attempts.

Wall had one of his worst games. He shot just 33.3 percent from the field and went 3-for-11 from three to the tune of 15 points and six assists. He played only 26 minutes due to foul trouble.

It wasn't as lopsided as their worst defeats this season, but this ranks up there with some of the Wizards' most inexcusable losses of the year so far. Even after making trades to shuffle their bench and team chemistry, the results remain the same. They let a bad team sneak up on them once again.

2. Trevor Ariza made his debut and essentially picked up right where he left off in 2014. He ended up with 19 points, eight rebounds, four assists and six steals, making a noticeable impact on both ends of the floor. His six steals tied a career-high.

Ariza went 4-for-11 from three with just about all of them on wide-open looks. Ariza was excellent  in his last tenure in D.C. at drifting away from the defense and making them pay from beyond the arc. Wall and Bradley Beal seemed to remember that, as they consistently found him for outside shots. 

The Wizards' overall defensive effort was up-and-down, as they allowed 35 points in the first quarter and 118 for the game. But Ariza was mostly not to blame, as he played smart and measured defense. With the exception of an early play where Kent Bazemore hit an open three, he did a good job closing out on perimeter shots.

The trade of Kelly Oubre Jr. for Ariza may ultimately prove short-sighted, and many fans seem to strongly disagree with the decision. But those are the things we should see over the course of the season that show why Ariza could be an upgrade in the short-term. He will play solid, structured defense with few mistakes or lapses in focus.

3. The fans who paid the price of admission in Atlanta to watch the referees go to work got their money's worth. It was hard to hear Steve Buckhantz with all the whistles.

Seriously, there were so many fouls. The two teams combined for 61 of them. Four Hawks players had four fouls or more and four Wizards players had five or more. That included Markieff Morris, who fouled out in only 17 minutes.

Even clean plays were fouls, like this one. Jeff Green got way up to deny Alex Len, only to have a foul called.

4. Otto Porter Jr. remains out with a right knee contusion, making this the fourth straight game he has missed. He hasn't missed five consecutive games since his rookie year.

With Porter out, head coach Scott Brooks rolled with Jeff Green to start alongside Ariza. Ariza is slated to be in the lineup moving forward, so that pushed out Satoransky, who had made eight straight starts.

Satoransky ended up playing mostly as a backup shooting guard with Sam Dekker at small forward. Chasson Randle, who was recently brought back on a non-guaranteed contract, backed up Wall at point guard. Though that may have had something to do with his defensive matchup on Trae Young, it was surprising.

Ian Mahinmi also got some burn after three straight DNP-CDs. That may have been due to the presence of Len, who is a lot to handle for small-ball fives.

Speaking of big men, Dwight Howard made an appearance on Tuesday. He didn't play, but sat on the bench with the team for the first time since his back surgery.

5. All of those lineup mentions should highlight one notable exclusion. That is Troy Brown Jr., who continues to be on the outside of the rotation looking in. Even with Porter out and Oubre now gone, Brown isn't in the mix.

Brown's inability to get playing time remains a head-scratcher. Yeah, he can't shoot, but he can do so many other things, things that the Wizards need. Whenever he gets spot minutes, he contributes with his passing, rebounding and defense. 

The fact he isn't playing a lot could be expected, as he was drafted outside the lottery by a deep, veteran team. But to not play at all, even when injuries pave the way? That's tough to understand.

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