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Cal Ripken On His New Book, Helping Son Navigate Minor Leagues

June 6, 2019
In his new book, "Just Show Up," written with James Dale and published last month, Baltimore Orioles legend Cal Ripken Jr. shares a mix of experiences from both his playing days and the business ventures he has undertaken during the last 20 years.

"The success we've had and the lessons learned from those two models, the interest was to make a comparison to the baseball world and the business world," Ripken said on Glenn Clark Radio May 31. "And I can speak the language a little bit better. ... We brought up stories that make a point, but the idea was to make it simple and make key points and just share the lessons that I learned in business and on the field."

Ripken dedicates an entire chapter to the unwritten rules of sports and exploring how to play sports fairly, an idea he got from his father, Cal Ripken Sr., who famously despised the hidden ball trick, a play in which a defensive player deceives a baserunner as to where the ball is and tags the runner out when they step off the bag. The play is entirely legal, but in Cal Sr.'s eyes, using the trick was deceitful and dishonest.

"What I think started this chapter was my dad's feeling on the hidden ball trick because he said there was no place in professional baseball for [it]," Ripken said. "I thought it was the coolest thing in the world as an amateur. You work really hard to trick them and you get a cheap out, but then I understood the value of not doing it in the big leagues. Because if you do it once and get away with it, then everybody in the league knows you're kind of that player that does that and then you're not looked at in a credible way."

Ripken has now started to impart those same lessons he learned in his playing days onto his 25-year-old son, Ryan, who plays for the High-A Frederick Keys, the Orioles' Carolina League affiliate. Ryan, a 25-year-old first baseman, is hitting .242/.266/.419 for the Keys.

"... We have a tendency in business and in sport to measure yourself against everybody else," Ripken said of lessons he's told his son of late. "So there's a healthy measurement: 'Am I good enough to be in the game?' And it's about confidence, but in the end you should take your special skills, your things that you do really well and try to be the best person that you can be, the best at your job that you can be. Don't try to do a job the way somebody else does."

At 6-foot-6, Ryan inherited his father's size. He was initially drafted by the Orioles in the 20th round of the 2012 draft out of Gilman but opted to attend South Carolina to play college ball. He later transferred to Indian River Community College in Florida. He was drafted by the Washington Nationals in the 15th round in 2014, then signed with the Orioles ahead of the 2017 season.

Several injuries derailed his development early on. Now that Ryan is healthy, Ripken said he tries to support his son as he navigates the minor leagues, offering the occasional word of advice but trying to avoid agonizing over every pitch or at-bat.

"When I go to games I root for him, but I've watched enough games and I'm watching hitters that I want to see do well," Ripken said. "But you know the reality is you're going to get hot and you hope that you're going to ride out the hot streak and then you're going to get cold and you hope that you can offer something that would help mentally or physically that might get him going in the right direction. 

"He's got potential. He's got easy power and he started to figure out his power starting toward the end of last year. So he got off to a good start this year, swung the bat pretty well. He was 11 for the first 33 and then pulled an oblique, so I know he's on the way back. That's a long-winded answer to say that I feel his pain, but I also know the reality of being out on the field."

In addition to helping his son fulfill his dream of playing in the majors, Ripken said he has a vested interest in the team he played his entire pro career with as the team sets out on a years-long rebuilding effort. The first step in that effort came June 3 in the MLB amateur draft. With the No. 1 pick, the Orioles selected Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman.

It's possible Rutschman could play for the Short Season-A Aberdeen IronBirds, a team owned by Ripken.

"The situation the Orioles are in now, you've got to draft your way back in. You've got to sign talent. The hopeful part of this is in your prospects," Ripken said. "There's a little pressure to make sure you choose correctly. Baseball is not like basketball or football where you can project a guy from an amateur level right to the big leagues. So there's a lot of other things to consider, but yeah, I'm a little excited to see who the Orioles take and where that person ends up. If I was asked, they should probably put them in Aberdeen."

For more from Ripken, listen to the full interview here:

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox