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TIMORE -- The Orioles selected Ryan Ripken, the son of Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., in the 20th round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft on Wednesday.
While Ripken's selection was the headliner, the Orioles also drafted William "Steel" Russell, the son of bench coach John Russell, in the 32nd round before adding catcher Jack Graham, the nephew of the club's coordinator of Minor League instruction, Bryan Graham, in the 38th round.
The familiarity the three draftees have with Major League Baseball and the Orioles' organization -- the younger Ripken was a fixture in the clubhouse until Cal retired when he was 8, while Steel Russell had the chance to be there at the moment he was drafted -- is something manager Buck Showalter said makes them "attractive" as prospects.
The younger Ripken is a 6-foot-6, 205-pound first baseman from Gilman School in Baltimore. He is currently committed to play for the University of South Carolina.
"The Ripken family has had a long association with the Orioles, and his grandfather was there, and his father was there," executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said. "And he's a good athlete in his own right. We thought it was the right thing to do to draft him. He's got a good opportunity to go to South Carolina, and we expect him to go to South Carolina, but we thought it was the right thing to do."
"I am excited and honored to have been drafted by the Orioles," Ripken said in a statement. "As everyone knows, the Orioles are tied so closely to my family through my grandfather, uncle and my dad. They have been my team for as long as I can remember, so that makes this moment that much more special. Right now I am enjoying the moment with my mom, dad and sister as I prepare to graduate from Gilman this weekend."
While most of the hype around Ripken is due to his father, Showalter was excited about Ryan Ripken, the player.
Ripken hit .377 with 25 RBIs last season and added a 4-1 record with a 2.30 ERA on the mound, showing the type of ability that earned him an invite to the 2011 Under Armour All-America game at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
"First of all, he's got a good chance to be a good player," Showalter said. "His last name being Ripken is after the fact. He's an interesting prospect. Obviously he's had the right things taught and said to him. I'm sure he's got a grip on reality about how professional baseball works. ... You can't teach [being] 6-foot-6 and left-handed. It happens naturally. Good genes."
Cal Ripken Jr. was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007 after spending his entire 21-year career with the Orioles. His father, Cal Sr., managed the club for one full season and parts of two others. Billy Ripken played with the O's from 1987-92 and '96.
With that family history, it's no wonder Ryan combines the athleticism necessary to play power forward on Gilman's basketball team with a baseball IQ that is universally lauded.
Twelve rounds after Ripken went off the board, the O's selected Russell from Midland Junior College in Texas.
The catcher had the rare opportunity to be in the Orioles' clubhouse in Boston at the time of his selection, as he and the rest of the family had been staying near the team to share the moment with his family.
"I am very proud," John said. "For your son to be drafted, especially with the team that I'm with right now, it is something that I'll cherish forever. To see the look on his face when he saw his name, that's something I'll never forget."
On top of being able to celebrate with his dad, William got to shake hands with Showalter, making him one of the very few draftees who can shake hands with the Major League manager right after his selection.
"It's surreal," Russell said. "I can't imagine anything like that ever happening to most people, but I'm fortunate enough for my dad to be who he is that I was able to share it with him in the clubhouse.
"I'm excited to be able to share it with my dad, to be a part of his organization now. It's something I never really thought about as a kid, but as you get older you realize it might be a possibility down the road. To actually have that happen is amazing."