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Cal Ripken, Jr. Helps Christen Refurbished Annapolis Athletic Field

Jun 05, 2014 05:49PM ● By Jake Russell

Cal Ripken, Jr. discusses the newly unveiled sports facility at Wiley H. Bates Heritage Park in Annapolis.

Baltimore Orioles legend and Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. helped debut a new multi-purpose synthetic turf youth development park at Wiley H. Bates Heritage Park in Annapolis on Thursday.

The new field, located next to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Annapolis, was unveiled by the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, founded in 2001 to honor the former Orioles manager through helping underserved youth throughout the country.

The park, which can host baseball, football, lacrosse, field hockey, and kickball, will be maintained by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Annapolis & Anne Arundel County Recreation & Parks. The Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation’s five-year plan is to construct 50 facilities throughout the United States. The Annapolis park is the 22nd facility created in that plan.

On hand for the ceremony were Ripken; Annapolis mayor Mike Pantelides; Mike Busch, Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates; Mark Butler, President/CEO of Ollie’s Bargain Outlet; and Steve Salem, president, Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation. 

Following the ribbon cutting ceremony, local youth participated in a quickball demonstration on Ollie’s Bargain Outlet Park.

Ripken, known as the “Iron Man” for playing an MLB-record 2,632 consecutive games, takes great pride in seeing new opportunities develop for children as a result of his father’s foundation.

“Really what dad’s life was about, it was about helping kids,” Ripken says. “He did it through the minor leagues when helping kids with their dreams to be big leaguers but he also used baseball outside the professional ranks to go get in front of kids that didn’t have all the same advantages.”

“That’s what we do,” he said “We use baseball as a hook. We’ve gotten into developing programs that have been very helpful for the kids. What we’ll probably be known for is these youth development parks because once you discover that there’s a need and that you need to create a safe place to play the sports and make good choices, we started to develop these unique venues.”

Ripken is also very pleased with how the new Annapolis facility turned out.
“This one here in Annapolis, it’s a beautiful place framed in by all the trees so it was a good design opportunity,” he added. “But in the end it’s just a big, open, safe place. I see the kids out there throwing water balloons having fun that way. It’s designed for fun.”

One young athlete who benefitted from Ripken’s influence and tutelage is his son, Ryan, who is eligible for the MLB Draft, which begins tonight.

Ryan, 20, was selected by his father’s Orioles in the 20th round of the 2012 MLB Draft but opted to attend the University of South Carolina before transferring to Indian River State College. The Orioles and Washington Nationals are reportedly two teams interested in selecting Ripken at some point in this year’s draft.

When asked about what it would mean to see Ryan in the majors wearing the orange and black, Cal didn’t get ahead of himself.

“All kids have a dream to be pro baseball players,” Cal said. “You have to take the opportunity one step at a time and see if you can do it. My son’s no different than that. Certainly there would be a special joy if he was able to do it in an Orioles uniform.”

If the Nationals were to select Ryan, Cal referenced his allegiance to the Orioles but prefers to stay in the moment.

“You never know what life’s gonna bring out,” he says. “Certainly I was an Oriole through and through. I grew up loving to be an Oriole. Ryan’s life, if it ends up in baseball, is going to be his life so we’ll see what happens.”

When the Nationals had a managerial opening, Ripken’s name was mentioned frequently as a likely candidate but nothing ever developed between he and the franchise about 40 miles southeast of Camden Yards.

“We never got to a formal process,” Ripken said. “It was just sort of a discussion and an examination but it didn’t materialize into anything more in a formality. I think many times the media or rumors circulate and it makes it a little bit bigger.”

Cal Ripken, Jr. Unveils New Annapolis Athletic Field