SIMPSONVILLE, SC - September 14, 2001 - While NASCAR, Dover Downs and Major League Baseball have worked together to allow NASCAR Winston Cup fans to celebrate the career of Baltimore Oriole player, Cal Ripken next Sunday, there's also a Busch team...
SIMPSONVILLE, SC - September 14, 2001 - While NASCAR, Dover Downs and Major League Baseball have worked together to allow NASCAR Winston Cup fans to celebrate the career of Baltimore Oriole player, Cal Ripken next Sunday, there's also a Busch team that considers next weekend to be pretty special.
Former Baltimore Oriole catcher, Chris Hoiles, is the owner of the #96 Chevy that will attempt to qualify for next Saturday's "MBNA.com 200." NASCAR Busch Series driver, Brad Loney, will be behind the wheel for the event.
"Changing the name of Sunday's race to include Cal Ripken just shows what Cal has meant not only to the game of baseball, but to all of sports, especially in the Maryland/Delaware area," stated Hoiles. "The magnitude of his performance, both on and off the field has been admired by many, and it's great that racing fans will get an opportunity to thank him." Initially, Ripken was to play his last home game next Sunday night, but due to this week's postponed games will now most likely play his last game in Camden Yards on October 6th or 7th.
Hoiles, who played for the Baltimore operation from 1989-1999, now resides in Wayne, Ohio with his wife and three boys. Besides his role as team owner, Hoiles is very active on the local level of such charities as the Children's Miracle Network and Special Olympics, and is an assistant coach for the Bowling Green State University baseball program. Looking back at his run in the majors and playing with such greats as Cal Ripken calls to mind many fond memories.
"I consider myself lucky to not only make the major leagues, but to be able to stay and remain active for 10 years with one team was also very fortunate," Hoiles said. "My basement is full of mementos that let me recapture some really great days in the game. I guess my first major league homerun in 1990 against Cleveland ranks pretty high (a game-winning, three-run shot in the 10th inning), and winning the Louis M. Hatter Most Valuable Oriole Award in 1993 (hit 29 homeruns and was fifth in the league for batting average - .310) was also very special. The top memory has to be hitting a pair of Grand Slams against Cleveland in August of 1998. That was an incredible day."
Hoiles was quick to credit Ripken for bringing out the best in his teammates. "Cal was a great motivator not necessarily by what he said, but how he conducted himself - both during the season and in the winter," Hoiles described. "Because he is a fierce competitor, Cal does everything he can to prepare himself to win - his workout ethic was unmatched, he always seemed so mentally
sharp, yet we admired him for finding a way to balance that discipline with fun. He's a great practical joker and being his 'partner in crime' instead of the recipient of his pranks was always a lot of fun."
Now, Hoiles watches teamwork from the unique perspective of owner. After meeting and working with local sprint car racer, Gus Wasson, they pooled their resources to try their hand at Busch racing. "We tried to get something going, but we were quick to realize succeeding in the Busch Series was going to be a 'whole different ballgame' than our experience with sprint cars," Hoiles commented. "I've gone forward as the sole team owner and right now, you'd could call us a 'rent-a-team' which hasn't been bad, because then I get a chance to work with a variety of people in motorsports - guys like our crew chief, Tony Burgess, and driver, Brad Loney. I'd like the long-term goals to include a full-time team, maybe two, but as they say, you've got to learn to crawl before you can walk."
Hoiles plans to be in Dover for next Saturday's race and hopes his #96 team has a good showing. "Let's hope we give the fans something special to see from an Oriole on both Saturday and Sunday."