- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 26, 2005

ABERDEEN, Md. — It’s a lovely summer day, perfect for playing baseball, and that’s precisely what about 250 youths are doing as part of an exclusive camp in this rural town about 30 miles northeast of Baltimore.

In the batting cage, a bald, middle-aged man sits on a white bucket and tosses baseballs in front of eager hitters. He adjusts the swing of one teenager, then watches the results.

“Nice cut,” Cal Ripken Jr. yells. “Way to drive the ball.”

Ripken played in 2,632 consecutive games for the Baltimore Orioles during an exceptional career in which he amassed 3,184 hits and 431 home runs. It’s been four years since he retired, but Ripken doesn’t miss baseball, mostly because he never really gave it up.

“In some ways, four years have gone by really quickly. I think that’s because I’ve stayed active and pursued different challenges and different interests,” Ripken said. “Most of those center on baseball in one way or another.”

He now heads Ripken Baseball, a sales and marketing company operated by him and his brother Bill, his former teammate on the Orioles. The business owns two minor-league teams, manages and designs youth baseball complexes, runs several camps and oversees the Cal Ripken World Series, a rapidly growing event for 11- and 12-year-olds.

In other words, retirement for Cal Ripken hasn’t exactly been about easing into a recliner and getting a solid grip on the remote control. He can’t even remember the last time he woke up and had nothing to do.

“It would be nice,” he said, “to sleep in once in a while.”

Taking a day off was never part of Ripken’s routine as a player, and it doesn’t fit his schedule now. But he doesn’t have to travel nearly as much as he did with the Orioles, and that’s one reason the 44-year-old father of two isn’t eager to get back into the major leagues.

“I know that coaching is an interesting job, and it would be fun to do that, as would managing,” he said. “But that would require me to go back on the road and spend time away from my family, same as I did all those years. In the short term, with my kids at their ages, I’m not interested in doing that.”

His daughter, Rachel, is 15. His son, Ryan, turned 12 last week.

Ripken’s father, Cal Sr., was a coach and manager in the Baltimore organization for several decades. He was rarely at home during the summer, and that’s one aspect of his father’s career that Cal Jr. wants no part of — even though he would love to test his skill as a teacher and strategist at the big-league level.

“Dad passed on many things to me, and I went on to have a career in which I learned many things and surpassed some of Dad’s experiences,” Ripken said. “I’d like to be able to test some of those philosophies at some point. But for now, it’s important not to travel 81 days out of the year.”

During a career that spanned 21 years and 3,001 games, Ripken earned two MVP awards and played in 19 All-Star games. That, in his estimation, was quite enough.

“I don’t miss actually playing the game. I think I had enough games, enough at-bats, enough experiences to look back on and remember,” he said. “But I do miss being with the guys, the behind-the-scenes part. When I watch the Orioles now, I feel like I’m on the outside looking in.”

Ripken went with the family to a couple of games last month, but for the most part, his focus is on running a rapidly expanding business and getting the Aberdeen complex ready for his world series next month.

“To have kids come from all over the country and have the international teams competing on our fields, there’s going to be a lot of energy here,” Ripken said. “It’s a great celebration of the game of baseball.”

That’s how many perceive the night 10 years ago when Ripken broke Yankee Lou Gehrig’s record of playing in 2,130 straight games.

“I think my name will be remembered for 2,131 and things like that, but over time, that’s going to be less and less, and it’s what you’re doing in the present that really matters,” he said. “Maybe my legacy won’t be as a professional baseball player, but as a person who runs good camps.

“If you teach baseball, and you build complexes and you do things that accelerate people’s love for the game of baseball, then maybe you become known for that.”

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