Cal Ripken Jr. always envisioned a career beyond playing baseball for the Orioles, but writing an advice column for a newspaper?
Ripken, who gave up his professional athletic career at the end of the 2001 season, has agreed to answer readers' questions in a weekly column in The Sun called "Ask Cal." The column, set to launch on Oct. 23 in the paper's new Modern Life section, which runs on Sundays, will target parents who have questions about their offsprings' sports activities."I am excited to have a great forum like this that will enable me to interact with other sports parents and give them my perspective on some issues," Ripken said. "Let me make it clear that I don't consider myself an `expert' and I don't think that I have all of the answers. I am a father of two kids who are active in youth sports, and I have some ideas about how the sports experience can be great for kids at every age. I would love for this column to be interactive and a real exchange of ideas."
Ripken, 45, who coaches his 16-year-old daughter's basketball team, has signed an open-ended freelance contract with The Sun. The longtime shortstop and third baseman also has co-authored a book, Parenting Young Athletes the Ripken Way, which is scheduled to be published by Gotham Books on April 10.
Randy Harvey, The Sun's assistant managing editor for sports, said parents might go to Ripken with a question "if they have an issue with a coach, or if they have a health issue involving a sport."
"They might say, `My son is good in every sport, but should he specialize in one?' " said Harvey, who described the column as a "Dear Abby" for parents who have kids in sports."
For example, The Sun, which this week began promoting the feature without revealing the new columnist's name, received this question from a Towson resident: "Our son has been playing baseball for years and loves the game. We've been told by various coaches that he shows promise. Now that he's in high school, is there a way to have him objectively evaluated so we can all get a realistic sense of whether or not he has a future in baseball, either at a college level or beyond?"
Ripken's editors will select three or four questions to be answered each week. "The good thing about Cal is that he's very involved in kids' sports," Harvey said. "He's not just an athlete trying to keep his name out there."
Considered a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame, Ripken broke Lou Gehrig's 2,130 consecutive-game streak Sept. 6, 1995.
Through his company, Ripken Baseball LLC, Ripken owns the Aberdeen IronBirds, a Class A team in the New York-Penn League whose moniker derives from his "Iron Man" nickname. The company also runs baseball camps and a world series for youths in Aberdeen, his hometown, where Ripken and his brother, Bill, a former Orioles second baseman, built a 5,500-seat minor-league ballpark and baseball academy. Their father, Cal Ripken Sr., an Orioles manager who died in 1999, had spent much of his life coaching children.
Cal Ripken Jr. will not be writing "some empty celebrity column," said The Sun's editor, Timothy A. Franklin.
"Cal is passionate about this topic," Franklin said, referring to youth sports. "He's actually living this stuff. This is a big issue for parents who care about the growth and development of their kids and who want them to grow in sports in the right way."
Anyone wishing to ask Cal Ripken Jr. a question about being a parent to young athletes should direct it to The Sun's Web site at www.baltimoresun.com/askcal or write to Ask Cal, The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St. Baltimore 21278.
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