- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 31, 2002

BALTIMORE Chris Singleton would like to get one thing straight right off the bat: He's not related to Ken Singleton.

The similarities between the Baltimore Orioles' new 29-year-old center fielder and the man who roamed the Memorial Stadium outfield from 1975 to 1984, though, are so uncanny that Chris Singleton has given up trying to convince people the two share no blood lines.

"As a kid, I always admired Ken Singleton and always wished that he was some lost uncle that I didn't know about," said Singleton, whom the Orioles acquired Tuesday from the Chicago White Sox for minor leaguer Willie Harris. "Even the fact that there is somewhat of a [physical] resemblance, I used to ask my mom, 'Are you sure?' I figured we must somehow be related. I needed to be related to him to get a little closer to the major leagues."

But Singleton made it to the big leagues on his own merits. And after three seasons of consistent play in Chicago, he's ready to become the anchor of Baltimore's revamped outfield.

And, of course, he'll wear Ken Singleton's old uniform number, 29.

"I've grown accustomed to 29," he said, "and whenever the opportunity arose to wear it, I've grabbed it."

Orioles management can only hope Singleton races down fly balls to the gap at Camden Yards with as much gusto. Vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift introduced his newest acquisition yesterday as "our new center fielder for the 2002 season," quashing any thought of a platoon situation between Singleton and Melvin Mora, who had been slated to be Baltimore's everyday center fielder. Mora will still get his at-bats, though they will come as a utility outfielder and middle infielder.

Of Singleton's reputation as a strong defensive player, Thrift said, "If it's in the park, he's going to catch it."

At the plate, Singleton is coming off a season in which he hit .298 with seven home runs and 45 RBI, though he received only 392 at-bats in 140 games, rarely facing left-handed pitchers. And with the White Sox hinting that his playing time would diminish this year in favor of Aaron Rowand and top prospect Joe Borchard, Singleton began thinking his baseball future might lay elsewhere.

"I remember talking to [former Oriole and White Sox DH] Harold Baines and telling him to call the guys in Baltimore and see if they need a center fielder," Singleton said. "But I didn't really think that this was going to be an open door for me, so this is a pleasant surprise."

Though he hit 17 homers during his rookie season in 1999, Singleton is also an accomplished bunter and base stealer (he has stolen 54 in his three-year career). He has spent time all over the batting order, but said if he "had to choose," he's most comfortable hitting second.

Which may be about the only thing Chris Singleton and Ken Singleton don't have in common.

"I don't know how many times I've been called Kenny," Chris Singleton said. "Everyone is pretty much convinced that I must be his son. I really don't try to convince people now that I'm not it's too much effort."

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