Ahead of the Orioles’ 5-1 win against the Yankees Sept. 6, Baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. threw a “virtual” first pitch to his son Ryan to celebrate the 25th anniversary of 2,131, the night Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s major-league record for most consecutive games played.
Ryan and Ripken’s daughter Rachel threw the opening pitches 25 years ago before the record-breaking game. Now, on the 25th anniversary, Ripken threw the opening pitch to his 27-year-old son, an infielder in the Orioles’ farm system. He described the moment on Glenn Clark Radio Sept. 4 as “a reality check” in seeing his son all grown up.
“You remember your kids being very small when you went through this great thing and then all of the sudden they’re wonderfully grown human beings,” Ripken said.
Ripken said he threw three pitches that were later were combined to capture different angles of Ripken’s throwing motion in an empty Camden Yards.
“Some of the corny things about dads and sons just playing catch is kind of cool,” Ripken said.
Much like Ryan learned from his father, Cal Jr. learned from his dad, Cal Sr. Ripken spoke about the influence his father had on his career and his life, attributing his competitive nature to him. Cal Sr. spent 36 years in the Orioles organization as a manager, coach, player and scout.
“Dad used to say things like, ‘If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right, and then if you do it a second time, you should do it better the second time than you did the first time,'” Ripken said.
“I try to do a better job each and every time I do something. You try to do it in the best possible way you can, and I derive a lot of satisfaction out of that,” Ripken added.
Ripken, 60, nicknamed “The Iron Man,” played 21 seasons as the Orioles’ shortstop and third baseman. He was a second-round draft pick by the Orioles in the 1978 MLB Draft and made his big-league debut in 1982. Ripken recorded 3,184 hits, 431 home runs, 1,695 RBIs and 603 doubles during his career. He reached the 100-RBI mark four times and had 12 seasons with at least 20 home runs.
Ripken won two American League Most Valuable Player awards, two Gold Gloves and a Home Run Derby. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2007. Ripken went on to play 2,632 consecutive games for the Orioles and retired at the end of the 2001 season. He continues to play a major role in baseball, running camps and tournaments for players of all ages.
He reflected on the different stages of his life and explained that his perspective on life was changed when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in February. He said that this diagnosis led him to truly value every moment of his life, especially those moments with his family. Ripken has fully recovered after successful surgery in March.
“You never want to have your doctor tell you that you have cancer — you don’t want that experience — but if you do,” Ripken said, “you want the next words out of his mouth to be ‘and we caught it early.'”
For more from Ripken, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles