SARASOTA, Fla. -- Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. said Thursday he would keep an open mind about potential opportunities to return to the Orioles organization in the future and was impressed in his first trip to the team's state-of-the-art spring facility in Sarasota.
"It's always flattering to be thought of in the way that I've been thought of, I'll put it that way," said Ripken, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Ed Smith Stadium as part of a book tour for the third installment in the New York Times best-selling "Cal Ripken, Jr.'s All-Stars" series.
"And there's a side of me that wants to be challenged in a big league way," he added. "What that is, I'm not sure. I did make a choice when I got away from baseball to be there to get my kids off to college; that was my mindset. And now that they are off to college, could be a time in your life where you think about those things coming up."
But could the man famously nicknamed "The Iron Man" see himself donning an Orioles uniform again like several former teammates?
"I'd have to get a little bit bigger uniform these days," Ripken joked. "But I don't know. That's a weird feeling. ... There's something special about putting that on and going out there and doing what you did for all those years."
Ripken remains close with vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson and acknowledged that sometimes he gets a "little jealous" hearing Anderson talk about the day-to-day operations.
"But I have kept myself pretty busy, and I'm not quite ready to give up what I've been doing or my availability," said Ripken, who is CEO of Ripken Baseball, Inc. and the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation. "But certainly my conversations with Brady time to time, feels like you are on the inside and in the know a little bit more than you have been in the past."
Could Anderson be pushing his old buddy to rejoin Baltimore as well?
"Is he recruiting me? No, I don't think so," Ripken said with a laugh. "At least, he hasn't shown his hand yet if he was."
Ripken signed copies of the "Wild Pitch" book -- coauthored by Baltimore Sun columnist Kevin Cowherd -- with the 400 copies brought to Ed Smith Stadium sold out. He spent time in the MASN broadcast booth while watching the beginning of the Orioles-Blue Jays game and also got a tour of the Orioles' training room and workout facilities from head athletic trainer Richie Bancells.
As part of the TBS postseason team last year, Ripken got the chance to speak to Orioles manager Buck Showalter on a frequent basis, and his visit Thursday prompted another chance for the two to converge.
"He pulled me in there and asked me about a couple bunt plays they were thinking of doing," Ripken said. "He has this passion for the game. He's a true thinker. Old school and a little new school all at the same time. I always thought he was a fantastic baseball guy, had success wherever he went. He seems to be evolving and becoming a better leader overall. It almost seems like the team looks at him a little bit more in a fatherly sort of way, which is cool."
Ripken has the unique opportunity to send a message with his books, and he is already looking ahead and working with Cowherd on the fourth installment, which will tackle parents' behavior at games.
"In many ways as a baseball player you are thrown out there as a role model," Ripken said. "You have a platform in which to influence kids positively. This is just an extension of that. ... I'd love to make it a series that goes way more than six books."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.