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Orioles Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr.

Aug 03, 2018 12:00PM ● Published by Brian Saucedo

By Tom Worgo

These days, Orioles Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. is around and about Annapolis. If you see him at your favorite restaurant or riding his bike around the area, don’t be surprised. The “Ironman” has lived in Annapolis since the summer of 2016.

Whether he’s home or away, the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, which he created in 2001 to honor the memory of his father, a former Orioles long-time coach and manager, takes up much of his time.

He says it’s as important to him as anything he’s ever done.  

The foundation’s principal mission is supporting youth programs that use baseball to teach essential life skills such as leadership, personal responsibility, ethics, and healthy living.

In mid-May, the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation hosted its annual Ripkens Uncorked gala fundraiser at the Chart House in Eastport. This year, the event raised more than $350,000 through sponsors, tickets, and auction items.

Another passion of Cal, Jr. is Ripken Baseball, a for-profit venture which offers well-known camps and tournaments for young players. It’s centered around a state-of-the-art complex in Aberdeen. Ripken Baseball also offers baseball activities and events in Tennessee and South Carolina and has similar facilities in both places.

With Ripken, it seems like everything, sooner or later, comes back to baseball. He owns the Aberdeen Ironbirds. He’s never let go of the notion of eventually being involved with a major league baseball team. Ripken says he has talked with clubs about front office and managerial positions, including the Washington Nationals.

Ripken, a 17-time All-Star who played 21 seasons for the Orioles, also worked as a broadcaster for TBS during the playoffs for a decade.

We recently talked to the 57-year-old Ripken about his foundation, living in Annapolis, his “Ironman” record of 2,632 consecutive games played, and what he does for fitness and enjoyment.

Why do you like living in Annapolis? What are your favorite restaurants?

It’s a nice small town. I enjoy being out in a boat, or crabbing. These things are new to me. I enjoy the atmosphere, the feeling of the town. It almost feels like you’re on constant vacation. It’s a place that has a buzz. You will see me riding around on a bike, enjoying the restaurants and the amenities that Annapolis has to offer. I like to just chill in Annapolis. I always liked the seafood in Annapolis. I don’t know if I want to tell you all my favorite restaurants. There are a few spots I like up and down Main Street. But I would like to keep a little bit of privacy and not tell you all the places I like to hang out. It’s not too hard to find out, though.   

Have you checked out Navy baseball?

I have ridden my bike over there a few times. I watched a game incognito (he says laughing). It’s kind of been fun doing that. I have met a couple of the guys over there, but I only watch from the field. I haven’t done anything with that group.       

Can you talk about Ripkens Uncorked?

It has turned out to be a pretty good event to raise money. We tapped in Annapolis years ago through a wine-tasting event. It has developed into wine tasting and food and a really good time at the Chart House. We held it at a couple of private houses in the beginning. It grew enough to go to the (Annapolis) Yacht Club, but it caught fire, and we have settled into the Chart House. It’s getting better and better each year. 

What area has your foundation had the biggest impact on?

Kids that don’t have all the same opportunities who want to use baseball for sports and as a vehicle as a positive alternative. We match mentors with those kids. The whole thing started because we were looking to capture my dad’s legacy. My dad tried to help kids to get to the big leagues in his professional life. He did clinics on his own free time to get in front of kids, really create a dialog and encourage them. A lot of the kids he got in front of were ones that didn’t have a strong support system at home. My father had a special affinity for kids that didn’t have fathers. I suspect that because he lost his father when he was 10. We really have had the opportunity to affect a lot of kids in a positive way. We give them safe places to play and be.

How involved are you with your foundation?    

In the beginning, I would do four or five things a year. As we began to grow, and we do all these projects and these fields, I would do three or four things a week. We are heavily involved in the building of fields. Sometimes, it involves the shoveling of grounds or ribbon-cutting ceremonies or even getting a project started and getting sponsorships and getting involved with the municipalities. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work involved.

Do you still workout or what do you do for exercise?

I have a mountain bike, road bike, and hybrid one. Even now, when I am traveling on the road, I will rent a bike in a city to get a couple of rides in. The routine was affected by me buying a boat. I got a little obsessive about boating. I take the boat out quite a bit so it cuts into my exercise time. When the weather is good, I ride around quite a bit on a bike. 

There are a lot of great trails in the area. Where do you like to bike around Annapolis?

There are a couple of parks. The B&A Trail. I can head toward Glen Burnie on that trail and go down to the airport. The longest bike ride (I have done is) to the airport and back. It takes pretty much all day. It’s like 50 miles. Normally, I will do 15 or 20 miles to explore and see things. It gives you a sense of being a kid again when your mode of transportation was a bike.

Would you like to be involved with a Major League Baseball team as an owner, advisor, or another role? Was there anything to you being a candidate for Nationals’ managerial job in 2015?

There are times when I have thought about what I have chosen to do: Be involved with the kids and the minor league baseball business. I have learned from that standpoint. What I really learned and know is professional baseball. Sometimes, I have the urge to apply that. It would have to happen soon. I am sneaking closer to retirement. I have been pretty active in a second career. I have been approached a bunch of times over the years about potential manager positions and interviewing for front-office positions. The timing never seemed right. The Nationals thing was real. We had many conversations, and I thought about how it might work. It didn’t work out. Maybe it was because I couldn’t see myself in another uniform or working for another organization. 

How thrilling has it been to watch your son Ryan play minor league baseball for the Nationals and Orioles?

It’s been fun to watch him learn and study the game. He is learning to adjust to the caliber of pro ball. I saw him a couple of times in spring training this year. He seems to be hitting it pretty well. I would imagine if he starts to show some power—he is a big kid (6-6, 245)—with more regularity, I think he has a chance. 

Are you flattered when people bring up the streak?

(Orioles Park at Camden Yard) holds 45,000 or 50,000 people. It seems like 200,000 or 250,000 people have told me they were there on the night I broke it. It makes me feel good it had that sort of impact. I don’t look at it as flattering. It’s interesting to have played in all those games, broken a record that I thought was unbreakable, and how people related to it. To everyone, it’s a work ethic, a commitment, a responsibility. One of the glorious things about being known for the streak is a lot people share their streaks with me. They haven’t missed a day at work in 31 years, or they use me as an example for their kids to have perfect attendance at school. There’s a value and principle that people relate to about showing up and being counted on. People keep bringing it up. I feel good about that.

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