- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 14, 2007

(AP) Sports, not politics, will be Baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr.’s emphasis in his new role as a special envoy for the State Department.

This isn’t a political statement for me, necessarily, Ripken said yesterday, after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice formally announced his appointment. This is about the kids and planning baseball and using baseball for good reasons.

Ripken, who set a Major League Baseball record by playing 2,632 consecutive games, said he was ready for the task, which will take him first to China at the end of October.

The former Baltimore Oriole, who was the first commissioner of President Bush’s White House T-ball league for youngsters, said he will promote teamwork and crosscultural communication in his new role.

Miss Rice, a well-known sports fan, introduced Ripken as a wholesome symbol of America who represents our aspirations to be a better nation and to help build a better world.

She also paid tribute to Ripken’s record-breaking streak, which earned him the nickname Iron Man, and joked that she expects him to keep up that kind of perseverance.

Cal, I assume that whenever I call you, you’re going to be hard at work for America, Miss Rice said.

Ripken said he was already on another winning streak.

Hall of Fame a couple of weeks ago and now this honor bestowed upon me by the State [Department], that’s a pretty good little run, pretty good little streak, he said.

Ripken is the second special sports envoy. Figure skating star Michelle Kwan is the other.

The job is an unpaid position for which the government covers only travel expenses.

Ripken, who retired in 2001, laughed when asked about money.

I was looking for a baseball salary, he said.

We don’t have those in government, chuckled Karen Hughes, the undersecretary of state for public affairs, with whom Ripken will most closely work.

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