From the time my now 11-year-old son was old enough to understand baseball, I started preaching the gospel of Cal to him.
Show up everyday, give it your best effort, keep your ego out of the way and appreciate those that appreciate you. Simple lessons, but ones that few athletes follow these days.
When the time came for Cal to appear in his last game, my son was five, and I thought he might be old enough to grasp the significance of the moment and create a lifelong memory. At 50, I still vividly recall the day in first grade when the voice over the loudspeaker told us President John F. Kennedy had been shot. This memory would be a little more positive.
So I sprang for the upper deck infield seats on eBay because let's face it, I wanted to be there too -- to honor a man playing a boy's game, yet have it serve as a microcosm of life and a way to conduct oneself. You wondered if that type of sports persona would retire along with him that day.
I barely remember the pre-game fanfare or the unremarkable 5-1 Orioles loss. I do remember Brady Anderson striking out in the ninth inning with his good friend on deck, robbing the crowd of one final moment of in-game adulation. And I remember some of what Cal said that night, especially this:
"One question I've been repeatedly asked these last few weeks is, how do I want to be remembered? My answer has been simple: To be remembered at all is pretty special. I might also add that if I am remembered, I hope it's because by living my dream, I was able to make a difference."
As I stood there, my son on my shoulders with Cal speaking at the microphone placed at the shortstop position, it became very clear that he had.
I felt a nudging on the back of my head and realized that my son Corey was crying. A wave of emotion came over me as well.
He got it.
I asked if he was OK. He said through the tears, "I'm sure gonna miss that guy."
It was the first time in his short life that he had ever cried over something that didn't involve his own needs or wants.
Live your dream, make a difference and just maybe you'll be remembered too.
Baltimoresun.com is looking for Orioles fans to write about their favorite Cal Ripken Jr. memories. Entries can be personal anecdotes, memories of Ripken's top performances or thoughts on what he meant to the Orioles and baseball. Fan articles will be published leading up to Ripken's Hall of Fame induction. Please limit submissions to 700 words maximum. E-mail your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org and include your name and phone number for verification purposes.