Late in his Hall of Fame baseball career, the retirement questions grew more frequent for Cal Ripken Jr.
In 2001, with the Baltimore Orioles going through a rebuilding phase, and sensing he had just enough left in the tank for that season, Ripken announced his impending retirement early in June.
“I announced I was going to retire in June, because I wanted to answer the question of ‘what are you going to do next?’” Ripken said Sunday. “... It was a new beginning for something else.”
Once his career wrapped up, Ripken and his brother, Billy, established the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation. Ripken would also go on to establish Ripken Baseball.
Those endeavors are aimed at developing kids by passing on the values instilled in the brothers by their father, Cal Sr. The goal of their father was always to use sports in a positive way to provide less fortunate youth with opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have.
"A conversation:" To further those efforts, Ripken devotes time to traveling the country speaking with various groups and audiences. One of those talks took place Sunday at York Catholic High School during "A Conversation with Cal Ripken Jr."
It gave Ripken a chance to relay his core principles through interesting anecdotes from his playing time.
WGAL TV-8 sports director Pat Principe served as the host for the event, and the two began Sunday by holding a “fireside chat” of sorts.
One of the principles was the idea of positive reinforcement. Ripken noted that too often youth coaches make the mistake of getting down on players or focusing too much on instruction during games.
He said his approach is born of watching his father as a manager during his youth.
“The lesson was taught after Dad had a chance to think about it, and the kid who made the mistake had a chance to calm down. They’re even more receptive to the criticism then,” Ripken said. “One thing I really try to tell coaches is try to avoid the teaching moment during the game or on the ride home. It gives you the opportunity to think about how to present it. Let them experience the failures and successes. The teaching moment is truly the next day.”
He also said that his father would always give players words of encouragement after the criticism, helping to foster a positive atmosphere.
“My Dad had the ability to put air in your chest,” Ripken said. “Air in your chest means you take a real deep breath, you stand up and you’re taller and really proud of yourself.”
Audience questions: After Ripken and Principe completed their back and forth, the Orioles legend fielded questions from the audience. As one could guess, the inquiries quickly zeroed in on Ripken’s opinions about a slew of O's-related issues.
Ripken was first asked what his approach would be to facing the powerful New York Yankees lineup if he were the O’s manager.
“They’ve got a powerful lineup that is instant offense, but I look at it differently. I look at the old, old Oriole model,” Ripken said. “Pitching beats hitting, good pitching beats hitting. And those guys have big, powerful swings, but they’ve got holes in their swings. So, you can have a strategy to pitch to them.”
The led Ripken to add that his main point of concern for the 2018 season would be Baltimore’s pitching staff.
Another attendee brought up the idea of Ripken one day having an ownership stake in the club he played with for 21 seasons.
Clearing up what was once a long-standing rumor, Ripken said that he was initially approached by Legg Mason chairman Bill Miller about potentially forming a group to purchase the team, should it become available. When it did not, the plan faded away.
That doesn’t mean Ripken wouldn't listen to future opportunities.
“If (current Orioles owner Peter Angelos) would want to sell the team, I’d certainty be interested in being part of that group. To me, though, you can’t buy something unless it’s for sale,” Ripken said. “Mr. Angelos has enjoyed being the owner and he enjoyed bringing them back from a tough time and now being competitive again. I don’t know where that stands, but if they ever became available, I’d certainly be interested.”
Ripken then jokingly added: “Now that (Miami Marlins owner and former Yankees shortstop) Derek Jeter has proven that you can.”
A young fan polled Ripken on which of the two stadiums he called home, Memorial Stadium and Camden Yards, he preferred. Having spent nearly half of his career in each, Ripken arrived at a bit of a split decision.
“Growing up an Orioles fan and watching Brooks Robinson, he was my hero,” Ripken said. “When I made my major league debut, it was at third base at Memorial Stadium. The same patch of grass and dirt that Brooks stood on. It was like hallowed ground. It was the coolest thing in the world.”
Ripken noted that while he had a sentimental attachment to Memorial Stadium, it was quickly overcome by the modern luxuries of Camden Yards. He also enjoyed the design and “old school” intimacy of Camden Yards.
Raising funds: The event was a fundraising effort of the York Catholic Athletic Association, with proceeds benefiting the school’s sports programs. The presentation was also sponsored by WellSpan Health Medicine.
After Ripken addressed the crowd, an auction took place where two Ripken Orioles jerseys were up for bid. After each sold for $1,500, the winners were invited on stage to watch Ripken personally autograph the items.
It was also announced the event raised more than $27,000 for the athletic association.
Reach Elijah Armold at firstname.lastname@example.org.