Chat baseball, philanthropy and more with legend Cal Ripken, Jr.

Aug 09, 2011

Major League Baseball's "Iron Man" Cal Ripken, Jr., will be online Tuesday, Aug. 9 at 1:30 p.m. ET, to chat about his recently announced trip to Japan to spend time with children impacted by the tsunami and earthquake earlier this year as well as his storied baseball career. Have a question? Ask now.

In October of 2007, Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. was named as a Special Public Diplomacy Envoy by the US State Department. In that role Cal travels around the world and creates a people to people exchange, using baseball to bring us together.

His first trip was in 2007 when he traveled to China and conducted baseball clinics for kids across the country. His second journey took place in 2009 when he visited Nicaragua and his next trip will come this November when he travels to Japan to spend time with children that were impacted by the tragedies earlier this year.

Cal, why is the Public Diplomacy Envoy work important to you? It seems like you do so much through your foundation and this is a lot of additional work to take on. Thanks, John in Ellicott City, MD

It's important because when I was first asked to spread goodwill through sport, I understood the meaning of it intellectually, but I didn't fully understand it until I went to China. The same joy of sharing sport here is the same throughout the world. The same smiles, the same fun, it is really an opportunity to be with people. There is a magic of sport that I was able to discover and having that success, I'm going to keep doing it.

Cal, While I know your baseball career was rewarding and I enjoyed watching you play. Do you get more satisfaction from your current endeavors bringing the game to children not only in this country but around the world? Jay

The answer is yes, it's very satisfying. It's two different feelings altogether. As a player, it selfishly was fulfilling a dream and testing yourself. But, spreading the joy of a sport you love in some ways is more meaningful, more heartfelt.

How did it come about that you are going to Japan? What are some of your plans for when you get there?

It's just an extension of a program that was started in 2007 when I was asked to be a public envoy for the state. I've been to China, Nicarauga, and this year, though ourrelations are very good with Japan , because of the tsunami and the earthquake, our goal is to celebrate sports and to celebrate basebal and show that we care. It can also serve as a distraction during times like this and to tap into the feeling that baseball gives you during the good and bad. Sport can be magical. It helps in the healing process, it just helps overall.

What is it like to play 33 innings in one baseball game?

Haha - Yes, I did play in one of the longest games in baseball history - 33 innings. We played 32 innings that night. It wasn't too bad, except for the fact that I was one for 12. We played til 4:07 in the morning.

It's admirable to try to help the people of Japan. But how about the children in the U.S.? Our Military Kids provide grants to the kids of deployed National Guard, Reservists, and Wounded Warriors so that they can participate in extracurricular activities such as sports, camp, fine arts programs, and tutoring. Can you help us?

The Cal Senior foundation, in honor of my dad, does a lot of work along those lines. And a  good step would be contacting us through the foundation, or me directly, because I've visited bases and gone to different parts of the country. So, yes, I'm always willing to help.

You are great! I'm a man in my 50s. I have interacted with many famous people and don't get startstruck enough to ask them to sign an autograph. However, in 1994 when I found myself sitting across an aisle from you on on a plane, for my son's sake I asked you for an autograph. You were charming and accomodating and asked questions about my then 10 year old son. I wanted to again thank you for living a life that a 10 year boy would respect as he grew into a now 28 year old man. He often refers to you as an example of hard work and putting in extra effort. It is not often these days that a boy's hero does not disappoint as both grow older. Cal, you are the best.

An old retired player needs to hear that. I always try to remember when I was a kid, how I always looked up to baseball players. And though you can't always be 100%, I try to remember that at all times.

Apologies if you are asked this all the time - do you see yourself as owning the Orioles some day?

I think my ideal job would be able to impact a whole baseball organization. And since my team was the Orioles, I'd love to be in the position to do that someday.

I'd like to thank you for all you have done over the years. I became a baseball (Orioles) fan just about the time you came up to the Bigs with the Orioles. You and your family were excellent role models, both on and off the field. And your positive influence has continued to benefit kids and adults everywhere. Good luck and best wishes to you on your impending trip to Japan. Will you be tweeting or blogging during the trip?

Yes, we will! I'm trying to get up to speed in this modern world. But, yes, we'll be tweeting about the adventures of our trip. It hasn't been set up yet, but stayed tuned using the Ripken Baseball Facebook page and the Twitter handles at @RipkenBaseball @StateDept.

I note that you played your 2,131st consecutive game on September 6, 1995, which was before the era of widespread Internet use. Can you imagine what all the hoopla would've been like if this were happening in this era of Internet, email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.? I wonder if any other player will avoid breaking your record just in order to avoid today's i-madness?

Well, one way to look at it, is that it could have come and gone much faster. Seriously, though, it was a wonderful experience and a great connection to the history of baseball. And in any era, I think it would have been great.

Cal: thanks for taking our questions. Good luck in your upcoming trip - your charity work is amazing and you are able to touch so many lives. I met you several years back at a literacy event and you were so kind and it was obvious you really cared about giving back. As an avid baseball fan I listen often to you and Billy on your MLB XM/Siruis show. love it. Wondering if you'd consider following in your father's path and managing some day?

Yes, managing has always appealed to me. My dad always encouraged me to manage along in the game with the manager. And certainly my expertise lies in between the white lines. Are you offering me a job?

Cal - thanks for taking my question. In your opinion - what is the biggest issue facing major league baseball today regarding maintaining its popularity and integrity and how would you address the issue if you had the opportunity. Also, I would just like you to know that as a father to 3 boys who live for baseball, it is a pleasure to single out you and your brother and your dad as role models for how the game should be played and respected. Thanks to your family for all your contributions to the game.

First of all, thank you for those nice words. And the integrity issue in baseball, I think if I was the commissioner, and I think all commissioners feel this way, is that baseball is such a great game that you never really want to let down the fans on how the game is played or viewed. There's been some dark clouds that have hung over baseball, but I'm satisfied that the honest and pure game of baseball is returning.

Just want to thank everyone for logging in and we'll talk to you from Japan!

In This Chat
Cal Ripken
Cal Ripken is baseball’s all-time “Iron Man”. He retired after the 2001 season as one of only eight players in history with over 3,000 hits and 400 home runs. He is most known for the streak…his consecutive games played streak of 2,632 games. On September 6, 1995 he played in his 2,131st straight game, eclipsing the legendary record of 2,130 straight games by the Yankees’ Lou Gehrig.

Today Ripken, 50, owns and operates Ripken Baseball. Ripken Baseball owns three minor league teams: The Aberdeen IronBirds, Augusta GreenJackets and Charlotte Stone Crabs.

In addition, Ripken Baseball owns and operates two youth baseball academies in Aberdeen, MD (Ripken’s hometown) and Myrtle Beach, SC.

In 2001 Cal and his family established the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation (www.RipkenFoundation.org) that uses baseball as a hook to positively impact under-served youth across the country. The foundation currently operates in 48 states and two of their programs, Badges for Baseball and the construction of Youth Development Parks, have made tremendous impact and are growing fast.
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