SARASOTA, Fla. - Michael Phelps, winner of 22 Olympic medals and an avid fan of Baltimore sports, took five rounds of batting practice this morning on the main field at the Ed Smith Stadium complex.
Phelps, wearing an orange jersey with No. 18 to match the number of gold medals he won, and a pair of green sneakers that clashed, received advice from a variety of players and coaches. First base coach Wayne Kirby, standing behind the cage, playfully barked, “This ain’t no breast stroke. Come on Michael, use your lower half.”
Phelps didn’t hit any home runs off BP pitcher Bobby Dickerson, the Orioles’ new third base coach, but he launched a few balls deep into the outfield. He claimed earlier that he played the sport until age 12, and he hadn’t swung a bat “in a long time.”
“It was my first time taking BP, so it was a real cool experience, being able to do that with these guys, and especially after a remarkable season, and hopefully they have a good one coming up,” said Phelps, who lives in Canton.
“Everyone was sitting here saying what I should be doing, so I just tried to listen to all of them a little bit. I wanted to hit one out, but we caught a couple that were close.
“These guys are just normal guys. They’re funny guys. They’re just out here having fun and I enjoyed being around them.”
Phelps signed baseballs in the clubhouse and chatted with manager Buck Showalter on the field before stepping into the cage.
Phelps, whose BP session was being filmed for “The Haney Project” on the Golf Channel, said he plans on attending the home opener on April 5. He couldn’t get to the ballpark last season because, as he put it, “I was a little busy.”
“It’s been a good year,” he said. “Obviously, the Orioles making the playoffs for the first time in a long time, and then with the Ravens bringing back the ring. Buck was saying they all set the bar high, so I’m obviously looking for an exciting season for the guys.”
Hank Haney, a renowned golf swing coach who formerly worked with Tiger Woods, offered tips to Showalter and center fielder Adam Jones. It was quite a morning for sports crossover.