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Catching Up With ... former Oriole B.J. Surhoff

From time to time in The Toy Department, veteran sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called, 'Catching Up With ...'; Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of 'Catching Up With ...' bj-surhoff-1.jpg


In eight years with the Orioles, did B.J. Surhoff ever crack a smile? Surely, he had cause. It was here, in mid-career, that Surhoff (1) found his home-run swing, (2) finally landed an All-Star berth and (3) twice led the Birds to the playoffs (1996-97), where they haven’t been since.

Through it all, Surhoff’s grim visage never changed. Hit a homer, jump for joy? Not him.

“I remember that one reporter said my expression was ‘dour,’ “ he said. “I had to look that one up.”

Fans accepted Surhoff’s demeanor as proof of his resolve. They embraced his old-school work ethic, clutch hitting and gritty play, knowing he sought perfection at every turn.

Former Orioles manager Ray Miller once said that Surhoff “could go 5-for-5 at the plate, then pop up a pitch and tear himself apart.”

Persistence remains his legacy, said Surhoff, 45, who retired in 2005.

“What am I proudest of? The fact that I played right, gave everything I had – and that nobody could question my effort,” the Cockeysville resident said. “I absolutely hated to strike out. I didn’t want to be deficient in any part of the game, and I had a hard time looking at myself in the mirror if I didn’t play 100 percent.”


Surhoff would plug any hole to get on the field. Over 19 seasons, he played every position except pitcher. Signed by the Orioles as a free agent in 1996, he spent his best years in Baltimore, batting .292 with 102 homers and 426 RBIs before being traded to Atlanta in July, 2000.

News of the swap stunned fans, who’d watched the left fielder carry the struggling club in 1999, when he made the All-Star team, led the Orioles in hits (207) and was chosen their Most Valuable Player.

At the press conference announcing his trade, from a losing team to a contender, Surhoff did something very un-Surhoff-like.

He wept.

“No, I didn’t,” he said, in retrospect. “I had really bad allergies that day; they made my eyes water.”

Right.

In 2003, Surhoff returned to Baltimore, again as a free agent, to finish out his career. Two years later, in his last hurrah, Surhoff whacked a game-winning single. Afterward, entering the clubhouse, he found teammates wearing big grins and B.J. Surhoff T-shirts.

In 2007, he was inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame. This year, he entered the College Baseball Hall of Fame. (At North Carolina, Surhoff held the school’s single-season record for hits until surpassed by Brian Roberts).

Retirement has not changed Surhoff’s mien.

“I’m not on Facebook,” he said. “Twitter, either.”

Intensely private, he lives in a quiet neighborhood with his wife of 20 years, the former Polly Winde, a onetime world class swimmer, and their four children. Austin, 19, swims for Texas and won a gold medal in this year’s NCAA championships. In the stands that day, his father egged him on. Without fanfare.

Nowadays, Surhoff works for Pathfinders for Autism, a non-profit support group based in Hunt Valley that he and his wife helped establish 10 years ago. Surhoff is president of the board. His son, Mason, 18, has autism and attends Kennedy Krieger High School.

An avid golfer, Surhoff participates in charity golf tournaments for other non-profits. He hasn’t gained more than two pounds in retirement.

The rest of his time is spent “getting in the way around the house, and agitating my two (teenage) daughters,” he said. “My kids are my hobby.

“Sometimes, I get on a roll where I read a lot – John Grisham, Tom Clancy, James Patterson and Robert Ludlum. I like fast-moving, intriguing novels.”

Rarely does he attend Orioles games as a fan. The first time he did, Surhoff got lost looking for the concession stand.

“I’d never been anywhere in that stadium but on the field,” he said.

Would he ever return to the game as a coach?

“The minor leagues is not where I’d want to be,” said Surhoff. “That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want to help the Orioles, in some capacity.”

Twice, he attended spring training as a guest instructor, and word is the Orioles will bring him back this season as a troubleshooter to help slumping players fix their game. The club has broached Surhoff, and he’s interested.

“I have a great affinity for the organization,” Surhoff said. “I want to see the team do well, and to hear fans talk the way they do about the Ravens.

“Has interest (in the Orioles) waned? Yeah. Do people wake up, reaching for The Sun or checking the Internet for the box score, the way they used to? That has ebbed a little. But I have no doubt the ship will get back on track. I don’t think the fix is as far off as people think.”


bj-surhoff-2.jpg


Baltimore Sun photos of B.J. Surhoff

Comments

I like BJ Surhoff. He is a class act.

Are you kidding me, that's BJ's smile in the picture above. It just happens to be upside down, not all of us were born with perfect smiles. As for BJ, well, he got the K-mart brand smile, the one that is budget brand and comes with no express or implied warranties.

I say hire B.J.Surhoff as the next manager of the Orioles what could go wrong with that idea just what the orioles need a some-what older,no- nonesense,proven HoF Oriole.Then fire MacFail and let another proven Oriole Cal Ripken Jr take over the GM spot.

Good article. Great professional.

Hey MacPhail and Angelos, hire BJ as the new manager! Can you image anyone not hustling for him! Managing is not rocket science, I am sure he would be the best manager Baltimore has had since Weaver.

Good piece. B.J. Surhoff was a good baseball player but more importantly a good human being.

I would think that bringing a player with his experience and passion to help the Orioles would go a long way in making them better.

Showalter are you listening?

Who would be better than BJ to bridge the gap. He is the "right" type of player for our younger players to follow. SIGN HIM UP!!!!!!!!!

Dontrell,

The problem with your idea is that you want Surhoff as manager, evidently think he is great, but ignore what he says about the fix not being that far off. You can't have it both ways, either you think Surhoff knows what he is talking about or you keep believing that you know better than Andy or anyone else about what needs to happen.

B.J. Surhoff as manager of the Orioles? Come on now, he was a complete player, very professional, very old school in terms of work ethic - not a good match up for the diaper wearing prima donna players of today. Hire him on as bench coach or third base coach and let him get his feet wet - develop his managerial skills before you make him manager. For cryin' out loud, didn't anyone learn anything about putting someone with no managerial experience into an executive office during the last presidential campaign? It'll be a disaster for everyone likewise. Groom him (not Buddy Groome him) to be manager. Bring him through the system.

B.J. was my favorite Oriole. He was gritty and hard working, things we could relate to in this blue-collar city. His work with Pathfinders for Autism is as remarkable as his playing career. That organization is a great resource for parents dealing with an austic child. Kudos to B.J. for still living in Baltimore and being involved in teh community.

Thank you for this article. BJ is, without a doubt, my all-time favorite Oriole. A few years ago when my wife offered to buy me an O's jersey for Christmas, the decision of whose to get was simple- #17.

Surhoff was an average all-around outfielder at best, but I recall him nailing runners with screaming strikes to the plate. Thanks for the story.

BJ was always in the game, never did he give less than 100%
He was a great Oriole and I hope he's back to infuse that attitude into this team again.
Dour? Who cares!
Go BJ! We missed you

Dontrell Smith you are correct.....

BJ smiles now; we see him working out like a fiend at the MAC in Timonium. He is solid as a rock, friendly as can be and obviously dedicated to his family, his legacy and his sport.
Dare I say it . . . a role model!

Will people stop with the stupid Cal for manager, Cal for GM, Cal for owner talk.

Perfect replacement for Crowley!

Hey Mike, I just sent you an email which I talk about meeting B.J. a few years ago while on military leave from Iraq. If you could check that out that'd be great. Thanks.

"Do people wake up, reaching for The Sun or checking the Internet for the box score, the way they used to? That has ebbed a little"

i used to wake up and check back when BJ played.

BJ is exactly what this club needs in terms of a coach, doesn't matter what capacity. Of course, that will never happen under Pete's watch. And why should it? After all...he has his investors to look out for. Why should we care about the fans?

Like I said B.J.Surhoff for manager of the O's and Cal for GM.Joe Girardi of the Stanks was put in the same scenario but he had better talent and personnel in house.Why not make a hire within the Warehouse whom some of players can relate to instead of a outsider.(remember Mazzelii)

My brother took my nephew to a game and during batting practice, my nephew happened to catch BJ's eye. Sean waved and BJ threw him a ball in between pitches. Great guy!!!!

B.j is the man.

bj surhoff was a class act and fan favorite for a reason...did his job and enjoyed playing baseball...sure wish more players stepped up and appreciated that fans support their livelihood....all the best to a true orioles classic...

B J would be a great choice for the new manager to consider for a coach.. It would probably cause a problem with the players union but if neccessary I would cosider fining Jones for balls hit over his head if he won't listen and play deeper... OH YES for those having doubts I hate to burst your bubble but no way we will get the #1 pick next year..

My favorite major leaguer of all-time. Baseball hasn't been of much interest to me since the Bujer retired.

I was a HUGE BJ Surhoff fan, back when he was a Brewer. My favorite number is number 5, which was his number. I finally looked him up after all these these years. I am pleased he did well!! Thank you for the well writen article, it's good to know where your heros end up! Thank you BJ for all my memories!!!

It's good to read about the old guys, especially one like BJ Surhoff. Certainly one of the best Birds we ever had and one that would be an absolute plus on this disorganized group we now have playing ball in The Land of Pleasant Living. I agree with those who said he should probably be brought back into the organization as a coach initially although I believe he could be surprisingly effective as an executive if given the authority to guide the organization in the way he sees fit. His first job should be to replace that no-name of a hitting coach and give him secondary duties of teaching some of our slower-learning guys how to play the outfield. I would like to see him as the hitting coach and then move perhaps to bench coach (or field manager) before taking over the front office (bye bye Andy). BJ is a true Oriole and should be given the opportunity to set this organization back on the right track. By the way, whatever happened to Buck Showalter's promise to bring back the old Orioles to help him revive this organization? He promised and then went out and hired a bunch of guys who had absolutely no connection to Baltimore baseball. Who is Pressley? Who is Kirby? Connor didn't stick around long enough for his coffee to get cold. Adair has watched the entire pitching staff disintegrate before his eyes. Willie Randolph is the only man Buck brought in who seems to have an inkling of what's going on between the lines. We need more Surhoffs, Murrays, Mussinas,Flanagans, etc, etc, etc, if we're ever going back to doing the things "the Oriole Way."

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