Cal Ripken, Jr.
One of the true legends of baseball, Cal Ripken, Jr. began his professional baseball career in 1978, made it to the majors in 1981, and quickly set a new standard for shortstops. Big, strong, and durable, he displayed power at the plate, grace in the field, and unrivaled perseverance. He earned AL Rookie of the Year honors in 1982, won the MVP award in 1983 and 1991, and received a Gold Glove in 1991 and 1992. In 1995, Cal broke Lou Gehrig’s major league record for consecutive games played (2,130). The next year, he surpassed Japanese great Sachio Kinugasa’s streak of 2,215 straight games. Cal voluntarily ended his streak on September 20, 1998, after playing 2,632 consecutive games. During this 17-year span, Cal amassed 3,184 hits, including 431 home runs. He holds many major league records, including most home runs by a shortstop and highest single season fielding percentage by a shortstop (.996). He retired from baseball in October 2001 after 21 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles.
Inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007 with the third highest voting percentage in history, Cal Ripken, Jr. is baseball’s all-time Iron Man. Now Cal is using the platform that baseball has provided him to help grow the game he loves worldwide. Today, he is Chairman and CEO of Ripken Baseball, which owns and operates minor league clubs, world-class youth baseball facilities, and a management and design company that builds state-of-the-art athletic complexes. In 2001, Cal and his brother Bill established the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, in memory of their father. Today the Foundation works with at-risk youth and underserved communities across the country using baseball and softball themed programs to connect to kids. In 2014, the Foundation impacted over 805,000 kids in 46 states and in partnership with 663 youth partners and law enforcement agencies. The Foundation has also led the fundraising and built 41 Youth Development Parks, multipurpose synthetic surface fields, and will complete 50 by the end of 2015. The goal is to give kids a clean and safe place to play after school where they will find positive adult mentors and coaches who will teach them life lessons on the playing field and in life.
Cal’s role as an ambassador for the game was taken to a new level in August 2007, when he was named American Public Diplomacy Envoy by the U.S. State Department. In this role, he has traveled worldwide teaching baseball to children and representing the United States. His most recent trip in 2011 was to Japan, visiting with kids who had been affected by the earthquake and tsunami.
Over the years Cal has also become a best-selling author. His past works include The Only Way I Know, Play Baseball The Ripken Way (with his brother Bill), Parenting Young Athletes The Ripken Way, Get in the Game: Eight Elements of Perseverance that Make the Difference, and The Longest Season, a children’s book. His first novel, Hothead, hit bookstores in 2011 and reached #5 on the NY Times Best Seller List. Co-authored with Baltimore Sun columnist Kevin Cowherd, this book was the first in a series of baseball themed novels for middle grade kids. The second book in the series, Super-Sized Slugger, hit the shelves in March 2012 and then Wild Pitch made its debut in 2013 and Squeeze Play in 2014.