No dad in history has done more to foster the father-son relationships when it comes to baseball than Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr.
During a 21-year career spent entirely with the Baltimore Orioles, he amassed 3,184 hits, 431 home runs and 1,695 RBIs.
He was named an All-Star 19 times and won the American League Most Valuable Player Award twice. He played in a league-record 2,632 consecutive games, a mark that is considered one of the most unbreakable in all of sports and earned him the nickname of “Iron Man.”
And while many kids get to experience the joys of having their dads be their coach in youth baseball, Ripken Jr. was one of the few in history who actually got to play for his dad, Cal Ripken Sr., along with his brother, Billy, on a Major League roster. That is why none of that means more to him than his work as an ambassador in youth baseball.
He is the public face and namesake of Cal Ripken Baseball Leagues across the country. When it comes to some of those baseball-related father-son memories, there is a good chance Ripken played a part of it, if only by name.
I know he did in my own relationship with my dad.
My dad was always a huge fan of the Baltimore Orioles. Ripken and those great teams of the early 80’s were a direct bridge to his own childhood when he would follow along with Brooks Robinson patrolling the left side of the Baltimore infield.
As a Royals fan myself –the other American League team that ruled the mid-80’s– my dad and I bonded over baseball through our shared rivalry. The Ripken vs. George Brett debate was something we argued about frequently. (I’m pretty sure Brett always won because I could employ the logic and fervor that only a seven-year-old arguing baseball could)
Every spring training here in Florida, we would always make it a point to see Ripken and his Orioles when they came to town. I even scored an autograph one time.
When he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007, my dad, brother and I made an epic road trip to upstate New York to see the ceremony. It was only right since we did the same for Brett.
Over the years, I’ve been able to interview so many sports legends that I’ve honestly lost count. My interview with Ripken, however, will always stand out because I got to pick his brain about his own unique view on fatherhood knowing the impact he had on my own relationship with my dad. I didn’t really know it at the time but I think that is when the seeds for this project where I document my own experiences as a dad were first planted.
As a professional journalist I’ve been blessed to talk to a lot of cool people who also turn out to be great dads. Hopefully this will be the first in a semi-regular video segment in which I get those dads’ unique takes on fatherhood (aside from my usual duties as a sportswriter, of course).
What better way to kick off this segment than a little advice from one of the best-known dads in the country, especially one that has had such a positive impact of my relationship with my own father?