SARASOTA, Fla.—Brady Anderson is carving a small block of time out of his packed training schedule to demonstrate the true purpose of the athletic life, which is not about money or women or fame or even fun.
It's about beating you.
Brady was "Winning!" long before Charlie Sheen ever came out of a druggy haze to consider the concept.
The reason this is so important is because he has found someone — and that would be me — who made the mistake of talking some smack about once being a nationally ranked table tennis player, and nothing makes Anderson happier than trying to beat people at their own games.
Perhaps that's why one of the great Orioles stars of the 1990s is back in baseball after all these years, bearing the long yet nondescript front office title of Special Assistant to the Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations and spending every day of training camp trying to whip the undermanned Orioles into peak physical condition.
He has become the training guru to some, a baseball philosopher to others and a very large, well-cut shoulder to cry on for a couple of promising young players who were once lost and now hope they have been found.
"I didn't plan on this, really," Anderson says. "I don't really know how it happened. Players just started coming to me after I stopped playing."
This is no ceremonial job, grudgingly handed over by the team owner to a popular former player to appease the fans, though it is no coincidence that Anderson has maintained a friendly relationship with Peter Angelos and his two sons since he was in uniform. Clearly, he also excels at the games people play on the corporate level.
"Brady wants to learn how to be an executive," said Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette, the guy Anderson has been hired to specially assist. "He's got great experience as a player. Now he wants to learn as much as he can about the entire baseball operation."
And next week, when the Orioles open their regular season against the Minnesota Twins at Camden Yards, he will officially be back in The Show.
Is this the next Orioles GM?
Could this just be Phase I of some evil plan concocted by Anderson and bosom buddy Cal Ripken to buy the Orioles and take their close personal relationship from the locker room to the board room? Inquiring minds have probably already considered that possibility, but Anderson isn't trying to conquer the baseball world.
Right now, he just wants to explore another part of it.
"I love what I'm doing right now," he said. "It's exactly what I want to be doing, because Peter Angelos allowed me to do it and sent me out to do it and [manager] Buck Showalter embraced it. How close I became to Buck — immediately we worked so well together — allowed my duties to expand and me to do what I'm doing."
There is no master plan. That's the thing about Brady. He has always lived very much in the moment, and this latest incarnation — which is as undefined as his title — is still in its very early stages.
He returned to the Orioles to be a commenter for the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network a couple of years ago and gradually evolved into this hybrid coach/personal trainer — an informal (and initially unsalaried) role that had some people in the organization scratching their heads.
Some outside observers were convinced that he was the latest poster boy for all that is wrong with the Orioles' fractured hierarchy.
What was this guy doing? Taking early batting practice with the active players? Joining in the outfield drills? Really?