Cal Ripken Talks Baseball, Mom, Parenthood
The Cal Ripken World Series kicked off Friday at Cal Sr.'s Yard in Aberdeen.
His son leaves for college next week. His mother was recently abducted at gunpoint.
Most people would be ready for a quiet night at home.
“Mom is continuing to get better, bit by bit. It’s still unsettling for all of us,” Ripken said. “You have to deal with the reality of that. It was a traumatic experience for her. We have to be sensitive of that. I think she’s trying to get back to the normalcy of her life, the freedoms she’s enjoyed. She’s a very independent woman, and she doesn’t want to be held back. We know it’s going to get better, but it might be slow.”
Ripken spoke from a conference room at Cal Sr.’s Yard—the Oriole Park at Camden Yards replica named in honor of his father. It’s a ballpark his dad, he said, might scoff at as a youth facility—particularly with its synthetic playing surface.
“I think sometimes Dad would think we’re getting too big for our britches, to use his terminology,” Ripken said. “I think, privately, he’d sit back and be very proud of the impact we’ve had on the league and the kids in general. This World Series is a collection of people who love baseball and that would ultimately make him happy. That’s what he loved, that was his life. He taught us about life through baseball. If you got a lot of baseball people around, he couldn’t help but be happy.”
There will be plenty of baseball people in Aberdeen for the next week, as nearly 50 games are played out at the Ripken facility on Long Drive. The youth complex features ballfields fashioned after major league ballparks—scaled-down replicas of Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and even Memorial Stadium, where Ripken got his start as an Oriole in the 80s.
Friday’s opening ceremony included skills competitions. Saturday’s schedule features a parade through downtown Aberdeen. A carnival comes to the Ripken complex next week.
Oh, and there’s baseball, too.
“This event has grown and grown over the years. It’s a wonderful celebration of the league, the Cal Ripken League. I think it’s a whole lot more than that,” Ripken said. “We look at it at giving kids experiences throughout the year at Myrtle Beach, and here, in camps. This is the ultimate experience because you’re playing against world talent. You’re playing against kids all over the world, all over the country, and they come here in search of a championship.”
The championship will be Aug. 19—but Ripken likes the lead-up.
“I don’t play up the championship part of it so much. I tend to play up the fact that we want you to compete hard, we want you to play well, but we want you to enjoy the experience and look back on, you know, ‘I got a chance to meet kids from Japan, from Korea, Mexico. I got a chance to see how other kids love baseball, some of their techniques and how they play across the country,’” Ripken said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity period, for these kids. That’s what we try to emphasize.”
Returning to his hometown also allows Ripken a chance to breathe. His summer has been a bit of a whirlwind—following his son, Ryan, as he played in the Cal Ripken Sr. Collegiate Baseball League with Youse’s Orioles.
“I think his summer ball is officially over now. We’ll move him into South Carolina next week. He might be able to grab two or three days with his friends before he goes off to college. It’s an exciting time.”
It’s also took Ripken back to a time when he was playing non-stop, and allowed him to look at his son—an Orioles draft pick in June—in the same light.
“Watching and following Ryan around this summer, it almost put me back to a lifestyle I was accustomed to,” Ripken said. “He has games six days a week. Sometimes with rainouts, and double-headers, he has eight games a week. And I’m following him around and games start at 7, get over 10:30 or 11 o’clock, and I’m coming home and finding myself cooking or eating dinner after midnight. And I’m still on the business schedule as well, so I’m up early in the day. But it just made me laugh a little bit. I’m thinking, this is something I’m so familiar with over the years, and now he’s kind of falling into that pattern. That’ll change when he goes to college, but it’s been fun watching him develop.”
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