Retired major league baseball player, Cal Ripken Jr, is well-known to many Americans for his 21-year career as infielder for the Baltimore Orioles. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in July for his accomplishments, including playing a record 2,632 consecutive games. Now, Ripken is the Special Sports Envoy for the U.S. State Department and in that role he recently held a baseball clinic in Beijing. VOA's Tony Budny reports on Ripken's career and life after baseball.
"You are challenged by the game of baseball to do your very best day in and day out and that is all I've ever tried to do," Cal Ripken said upon setting a baseball record.
Ripken earned the nickname "Iron Man" for his record number of consecutive games – spanning 16 seasons – an achievement that likely will stand unbroken.
Ripken has stayed close to baseball since his retirement from the Baltimore Orioles.
The former infielder owns two minor league baseball teams – one in Maryland and the other in Georgia.
His company, Ripken Baseball, is made up of business ventures, youth organizations, and charity work -- which includes giving underprivileged children the chance to play baseball.
As the State Department's Special Sports Envoy, Ripken recently taught youths in China how to play baseball. During the weeklong clinic, the kids learned how to catch and hit. They also found out about some unique American baseball traditions, such as chewing gum or collecting baseball cards.
Ripken spoke to VOA about his goals as envoy. "A special envoy almost is looked at as an ambassador of sorts, using to share your experiences and maybe build a bridge, open up a level of conversation and just exchange through sport,” he told us “My expectations are no more than trying to share experiences and bring a smile to someone's face, have them understand the magic."
During his baseball career, Ripken was as competitive as he was committed. He rarely struck out and played in every game he could -- usually in the position of shortstop.
He also had memorable performances in important games. One was when he hit the go-ahead home run in a game in which he broke former New York Yankees star Lou Gehrig's 56-year-old record for consecutive games played. This spirit of competition remains important to him.
"You take that competitiveness as a way to motivate, that says 'O.K., I'm not competing like I did before.’ Competition brings out the best in us. But it is to be able to tap into that need to succeed and measure it internally to motivate yourself to have success."
Ripken's wife, Kelly, sees a different side of her husband. "He's still the little kid playing baseball."
Ripken, who still has nine months left in his appointment as sports envoy, does not know where he will visit next. But he has received invitations to hold youth camps in other nations.