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Cal Ripken Jr. discusses impact in community, legendary baseball career with Gov. Hogan

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BALTIMORE - Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan had a sit-down conversation with Baltimore baseball legend Cal Ripken Jr. during a fireside chat at the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Conference Tuesday in Flintstone, Maryland.

More than 300 people attended the conference.

During their discussion, Ripken shared stories about his early baseball career in Appalachia, lessons on teamwork and leadership, and his work for youth sports with the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation.

"He has great programs and communities across the state and region," Gov. Hogan said. "He has been an incredible ambassador for baseball for youth sports and our state."

Ripken was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in 1978 and made his Major League Baseball debut with the team in 1981.

He played his entire career - until his retirement in 2001 - with the Orioles.

Ripken, from Harford County, was born into a baseball family. He played for this father - Cal Ripken Sr. - for the Orioles in 1987. 

He also played with his brother Billy Ripken with the Orioles from 1987 until 1992.

The late Queen Elizabeth II saw her first baseball game at Memorial Stadium in 1991 02:44

Ripken won a World Series in 1983, was a two-time MVP and 19-time all-star. He retired with more than 400 home runs and 3,000 hits in his career.

But, of course, many fans know Ripken as the "Ironman," after he broke Lou Gehrig's record on Sept. 6, 1995 with 2,131 consecutive games played.

"(Manager) Frank Robinson probably gave me the greatest compliment," Ripken said. "He said, 'The easiest part of my job is when I go and put the lineup out, I put your name first, because I know you are going to be there.' He said, 'That's a big value and all the intangibles you bring.'"

Ripken spoke with Gov. Hogan about when he was 17 years old, starting out in Bluefield, West Virginia, in the Orioles instructional league.

He was drafted as a pitcher and a shortstop and struggled in his first year.

"The Orioles were probably the team that saw me play more often. So, when they drafted me, they gave me an option," Ripken said. "Even at 17, you think, 'A starting pitcher plays once every five games. I want to play every day.' I played in Bluefield and I made like 30 some errors in 60 games and I didn't hit a home run." 

Ripken talked about playing in a baseball family, and all the pressure that entailed.

But, the Orioles legend said he had more anxiety watching his own son play ball. Ryan Ripken is a former Orioles minor leaguer. 

 "It was a whole lot nerve-wracking watching my son play than it was for me playing," Ripken said. "You don't want them to go through the struggles that I went through. I was allowed to grow and be myself. With Ryan, going through Little League, there was this expectation of him to be the greatest player in the world."

While Ripken was a legend on the diamond, he has made a tremendous impact in communities across the country, especially in his home state.

He started the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation - named after his father - which forms mentorships and helps children in underserved communities enjoy baseball.

Ripken's foundation built 110 youth development parks across the country to give young people in underserved areas a safe place to play.

"We tried to capture dad's legacy, spirit, what he stood for," Ripken said. "He was always in the mindset as a coach and teacher to develop young players. He also went to some clinics in tough areas where kids didn't have all of the same opportunities, and he would teach baseball to them. It was pretty magical that he was giving them an option of a sport and gave them an option of all the good things that can happen in sports that might take you away from some elements that might be pulling you in the wrong direction."

The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Conference was hosted in Maryland for the first time in 30 years.

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