Ready to feel old? Cal Ripken Jr. retired in 2001—that's 10 years ago. Here, he reflects on the beauty of rain delays, the foundation his father inspired, and life after baseball. (Guess who's a novelist now?)
Where did you go to school?
I graduated from Aberdeen High School. I was drafted out of high school so I never attended college. Maybe I will go back some day.
What book or film most changed your life?
I wouldn't say that a book or film has changed my life. Films that I really enjoy are Shawshank Redemption and Silence of the Lambs and one of my favorite books is Atlas Shrugged.
Who is your favorite Baltimorean?
What is the best advice you ever received?
My Dad always taught us to lead by example and we try to live by that.
What is the biggest mistake you ever made?
We all make mistakes, hard to rank them. The important thing is that we learn from them and try not to repeat them.
When were you most tempted to leave Baltimore?
In 1988, when my dad was fired as manager of the team after six games. If the season ended then, I would have most likely left Baltimore, but as the season went on, I realized that this was home and this is where I always wanted to be.
What is your guilty pleasure?
I don't know if playing and watching basketball is a guilty pleasure but that is what I like to do when I have free time. That and help coach my son.
If you could write Baltimore's motto what would it be?
Baltimore: The Greatest Sports Fans in the World.
Does it feel like 10 years ago that you retired?
Yes and no. In many ways it feels like a long time since I played and I played enough. Sometimes when I am at the ballpark it feels so comfortable that it seems like I am still a part of it.
What do you miss most about it?
Being part of a team and the time with the guys in the clubhouse, on the road. The stuff that, when you played, we sometimes complained about is the stuff that I miss the most. Road trips, rain delays.
What do you miss the least?
Facing fastballs from Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez.
Tell us a memory from The Streak that sticks with you.
It was such a wonderful personal moment. The things that stick with me the most are when I locked eyes with my dad. I was on the field and he was in a suite, it was very powerful. The other was, after making the lap around the field I spent a few minutes with Kelly, Rachel and Ryan. It was a great moment.
If you had to boil it down to one thing, what is the biggest reason you were able to keep the streak alive?
It is really simple to me. Dad always taught us to come to the ballpark ready to play and if the manager thinks you are one of the guys who can help the team win that day he will put you in the lineup. I kept showing up ready to play and they kept writing my name in the lineup.
Any reflections on playing in the so-called "steroid era"?
A black cloud has been hanging over the game since all of that came to light but now the cloud is lifting. MLB and the Player's Association came together and worked hard to implement testing and rules to get the game back to where it should be and that's a good thing.
How hard has it been to watch the Orioles struggle?
Yes, I played for the Orioles but I am also a Baltimorean and a fan so it has been hard. I am optimistic and encouraged and hope that their very good young players continue to develop. Summers in Baltimore are always more fun when the Orioles are playing well.
This is the 10th anniversary of the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation. Is there a favorite success story?
When we started the foundation we just wanted to honor Dad's memory. To see that we now have programs operating in 48 states and our Badges for Baseball program is in 18 states is remarkable. We are making a real difference in the lives of underserved kids and that means a lot to us. We have seen the impact that the programs have made first hand and it is gratifying to be able to use the platform that baseball has provided to do good things. We are now building fields across the country to give kids a safe place to play and the first one is on the site of old Memorial Stadium. That was very meaningful for us.
You're a novelist now?
Yes. The first book in this series is called Hothead and it is about a young ballplayer who has temper problems. It is loosely based on me because I struggled with that as a kid. The next one will tackle the bullying issue. Kevin Cowherd of The Baltimore Sun has done a wonderful job shaping the story and the characters and I have enjoyed working with him. This deal is for three books but the first one reached number five on the NY Times bestseller list so we are optimistic that the series will go beyond three books.