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Ripken gets honorary degree as University of Md. graduates 7,700

Oriole Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. drew a laugh Sunday during his commencement address at the University of Maryland, College Park when he noted his wife, Kelly, graduated from the university, "although she will not allow me to reveal the year."

Dressed in a black robe and glasses, Ripken paused, leaned into the microphone carefully and said in a stage whisper, "1981."

The Comcast Center was packed to the rafters with family, friends and members of the Class of 2013. More than 7,700 students received degrees — although not at the campus-wide ceremony. Individual colleges and schools within the university held ceremonies awarding diplomas at facilities across campus on Sunday and will hold more Monday.

Ripken spoke about the value of making the most of talent and developing skills. But he spent the bulk of his 10-minute talk urging gradates to have a positive attitude. He said as a young player, he cared about his own statistics, "my ticket to the show," and blamed everyone from umpires to groundskeepers when he failed.

It wasn't until he was struck in the helmet by a 94 mph pitch in his rookie big-league season that Ripken listened to advice of veteran teammates like Ken Singleton and turned his attitude around.

"Attitude is not like talent," he said. "It's a choice. It can be changed. It can be developed."

Ripken was chosen commencement speaker by a committee of graduating students. The Oriole legend, who acknowledged in his opening remarks he didn't attend college, was granted an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree by university President Wallace D. Loh and Provost Mary Ann Rankin. The former player broke into a wide grin when Rankin and Loh slipped the teal-and-red hood over his head and presented him with a framed certificate.

Rankin said Ripken's 17 years of unbroken play was the equivalent of not missing a day of school from kindergarten through college.

candy.thomson@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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