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No time for retirement: Ripken staying busy

  • Story Highlights
  • Ripken played in 2,632 consecutive MLB games
  • Now runs baseball organization with brother Bill
  • Former shortstop has written several books, hosts radio show
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By Patty Rasmussen
Special to CNN
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(CNN) -- Cal Ripken Jr. will always be known for his consecutive games played streak, but it may surprise many people that just two years into his big-league career, he already was planning for life after baseball.

Ripken

Cal Ripken Jr. is introduced to the crowd at the 2002 All-Star Game in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

While many of the athletes who took to the playing fields of major league baseball this season only are focused on the game, Ripken began saving and planning for retirement long before his career neared its end.

"When I joined the Orioles [in 1982], the team was transitioning," said Ripken, who will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in July. "I saw guys who were 34, 35, 36 years old -- still young guys -- about to get out of the game, and I wondered what will they do now?

"It got me thinking about what I would want to do when I got out of the game. Most people don't realize how fast the time goes, but I turned those questions on myself."

Though he quickly points out that he didn't dwell on those questions, Ripken admits it got him thinking, and eventually planning, so that when retirement came in 2001, the shift from baseball to business was easy.

"From the outside, I'm sure it looked like a smooth transition just by virtue of the fact that I had another thing to go into," he said. "I had prepared for what was next."

These days, five seasons after retiring from a 21-year career he spent with the Baltimore Orioles, Ripken is a businessman, team owner, radio-show host and author. He also will be a baseball analyst for TBS, which like CNN.com is owned by Time Warner.

Ripken jumped full time into his company, Ripken Baseball, without taking any break, lessening the emotional jolt of retirement.

"I didn't give myself the luxury of taking a month off [after the baseball season]," he said. "I think I would have opened myself up to regret, thinking about the past. I had to get a minor league baseball team in that stadium. I just put my head down and started working."

Ripken's first post-baseball venture was developing a youth ballpark in his hometown of Aberdeen, Maryland, financed in part by a $75,000 gift from the Major League Baseball Players Association. It was presented to him the night he broke Lou Gehrig's record for consecutive games played.

Ripken was a "rookie" for the second time in his life, this time in business. "I was learning all over again, learning what was important," he said. "The off-season never went by so fast. I had meetings, phone calls, plans and long days in the office.

"By the time I looked up, [the Orioles] were at spring training. I didn't think, 'They left without me,' which is what I thought I would do."

Ripken's latest project is a business principles book called "Get in the Game: 8 Elements of Perseverance That Make the Difference," co-authored by Donald T. Phillips.

The book, available April 10, was born out a speech Ripken gave about the "secrets" of his success. Writing it turned out to be an emotional journey, he said.

"I got to reflect on what my parents had taught me, the values and principles, right and wrong," Ripken said. "It's good to be in touch with those things."

The fact is, whether in baseball or business, Ripken rarely strays from the principles he learned from his late father, Cal Sr., a former player and manager. The book is filled with anecdotes from on and off the field.

Now 46, Ripken is president and CEO of Ripken Baseball, and his brother, Bill, a former teammate, is executive vice president. The company owns minor league teams in Aberdeen and in Augusta, Georgia. The brothers also have co-written two books on baseball and co-host a baseball call-in show on weekends on XM Radio.

There were reports in December that Ripken was heading a group that was interested in buying the Orioles, but Baltimore owner Peter Angelos denied that claim.

"There is no question that Cal and I have a great relationship," Angelos told The (Baltimore) Sun. "He was a great player for the Orioles, and I have an affection for him. But what's being reported, there is simply no substance to it. It has not happened. There have been no such discussions."

Still, Ripken said he probably would "stick his nose in" if the Orioles became available.

Ripken, who has a boy and a girl, also has ventured into children's literature, and his first book is scheduled to be released Thursday. "The Longest Season" tells the story of the 21-game losing streak Ripken and his Orioles teammates endured in 1988 and teaches the lessons of perseverance.

Ripken also continues his longstanding association with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America through the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation. The foundation says it has refurbished fields, donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Boys and Girls Clubs throughout the country and teamed up with Nike to help provide baseball and softball equipment to school sports programs nationwide.

Asked what type of advice he would offer to young professional baseball players, Ripken said, "Put that [huge contract] aside, save your money, that's your nest egg. In the off-season, think about skill development or the interests you have in a small way but be very careful.

"You can't think too much about retirement as a young player. You have to live a narrow existence for your sport." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Retirement PlanningCal Ripken Jr.XM Satellite Holdings

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