VIDEO: Cal Ripken talks about coronavirus pandemic and shift in Ripken charity to help

Cal Ripken Jr. is retired, but he has never been one to sit on the sidelines. At 7 a.m. on April 7, 2020, the Hall of Fame baseball player — who set the record for consecutive games played — tweeted for the first time.

Ripken had an important message to get out. The Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, which has established programs and built fields to give kids in underserved communities a safe place to play and learn, was now shifting its focus to help feed families in those same communities.

Through social media like Twitter, Ripken knew he could reach the masses and explain the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation’s partnership with Feeding America and how even a small donation would help support 200 local food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs across the country.

“One dollar given is 10 meals distributed,” Ripken said.

“It’s an amazing thing, only $5 or $10 can really have a big effect on these communities,”  Ripken said.

“I thought it would be cool to embrace social media and my dog Nash is probably the star of Twitter, but the reason I jumped on is to try and help the need for food in this crisis.”

Helping is the Ripken way. The foundation is named after the former Baltimore Oriole’s father, who as coach and manager in the minor and major leagues of baseball, spent his entire life helping others achieve their goals.

Ripken’s father’s legacy lives on and his words and wisdom still resonate.

“In this particular case, I go back to the same advice he (Ripken Sr.) gave me when I played all those games in a row,” said Ripken.

“You can’t play tomorrow’s game until it gets here. You can’t replay yesterday’s game although you can learn from it. And so you might as well play the game that is here.

“In order to execute each and every day, you really have to live in the moment,” said Ripken.

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Ripken follows that advice and lives in the moment. Until recently, he had not watched in its entirety the game where he set the record for most consecutive games played.

Over the years, Ripken had seen bits and pieces from the September 1995 event — when he reached 2,131 consecutive games.

Ripken said he was reluctant to watch it all, because he wanted to preserve his own memory of that game.

Listen to an interview WTOP’s Dave Johnson did with Cal Ripken just before the 20th anniversary of the day he broke Major League Baseball’s consecutive games played streak.

Dave Johnson interviews Cal Ripken, Sept. 2015

Finally seeing that magical night from start to finish, Ripken said it was fascinating.

There were scenes he did not remember and conversations that were part of the broadcast he had never heard, including one with his first manager Earl Weaver who switched Ripken from third base to shortstop.

“When Earl moved me from third to short, I thought it was mistake,” Ripken recalled.

“Earl said during that telecast I was just hoping to get through the weekend, which really tells me he was thinking about it only as a temporary move — now, that temporary move lasted 15 years, but I never knew how Earl was thinking about it.”

Just like his father’s foundation has shifted its focus to helping feed people, Ripken’s ability to embrace change, which ultimately led to a Hall of Fame career, is a life lesson.

Going forward, baseball fans might have to embrace change and the prospect, if possible, of Major League Baseball games being played in empty stadiums.

“We all played in front of no one at some point,” Ripken said.

“There are going to be some hurdles and challenges that we will have to get used to, but I would much rather have something to get used to, than nothing at all.

“It’s better than waiting until next year and saying this season is gone.”

Dave Johnson

Dave Johnson is Senior Sports Director and morning sports anchor. He first arrived at WTOP in 1989, left in 1992 and returned in 1995. He is a three-time winner of the A.I.R. award as best radio sportscaster in D.C. In 2008 he won the Edward R. Murrow award for best writing for sports commentaries.

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