Ripken shares thoughts on all things baseball before Wednesday IronBirds game

Cal Ripken Jr. calls Orioles' All-Star third baseman Manny Machado 'a special talent'

Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. stepped onto the field at Ripken Stadium before Wednesday's Aberdeen IronBirds game, en route to two waiting chairs near home plate, his designated spot for the third of five pre-game interviews he is scheduled to give this season.

He did not, however, get there immediately as Ripken, Major League Baseball's all-time Iron Man, one of the all-time great Baltimore Orioles and Aberdeen native, stopped to greet as many fans, young and old, as possible and sign autographs.

Ripken has given several pre-game interviews at the stadium this season, and he is scheduled to give two more as the 20th anniversary of him setting the major-league record for consecutive games played approaches.

Eager fans stood in the first row of the stands behind the home team's dugout Wednesday, tossing baseballs, gloves and T-shirts to Ripken for him to sign. The Iron Man signed the items with a flourish and tossed them back to the happy fans.

One young fan, 6-year-old Owen Yates, of Elkton, and his father, Steve, made it down to the field level, and Ripken signed a baseball for Owen as the youngster stood in the IronBirds' dugout.

Owen also get several autographs and fist bumps from IronBirds players.

"Good," he replied when asked how it was to meet Ripken.

Ripken eventually made it to home plate, where he spoke briefly with Roch Kubatko, of the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, the television network that broadcasts Orioles games.

Kubatko asked Ripken his thoughts on the Major League Baseball 2015 All-Star Game, played Tuesday. The American League defeated the National League, 6-3, with help from Orioles' third baseman Manny Machado, who doubled in a run in the seventh inning and later scored.

Ripken called Machado, who has dealt with some serious injuries in recent seasons, "a special talent."

Ripken made multiple appearances in the All-Star Game during his career, and he was named an All-Star MVP twice.

Ripken and Kubatko also talked about the upcoming 20th anniversary of "The Streak," in which he set a record for playing 2,131 games in a row during his career, a feat he reached in September 1995.

Ripken noted his two children are now in their 20s, which reminds him of how long it has been since he broke baseball great Lou Gehrig's record for consecutive games played, but he said it does not seem that long "from a baseball memory standpoint."

"That whole streak kind of happened in a way no one could have planned for," he said.

No present-day player has approached the record set by Ripken, but he told Kubatko that it's still possible to break the streak, though, since he was able to accomplish it.

"The first 1,000 games will go by pretty quickly," he said.

Ripken said he learned the value of playing every game, even if he is not completely healthy, from his former teammate, Hall of Famer Eddie Murray.

"It's how you can play, being less than 100 percent," Ripken said.

Ripken was voted one of the Orioles' "Franchise Four" this year, along with fellow Hall of Famers Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson.

When asked his thoughts on being among such storied company, Ripken said "my heroes were those guys."

Fans surged forward again after Ripken finished the interview, and he signed many more autographs as he left the field.

Oscar Jorge, of Baltimore, came to the stadium with his 11-year-old daughter, Izabella, and 9-year-old son, Anderson. He and his son got Ripken's signature on posters, baseballs and T-shirts.

"It was cool meeting a Hall of Famer," said Anderson, who plays for the 9-and-under White Marsh Warriors youth baseball team.

His father noted the team uses the youth fields near Ripken Stadium.

"It was a nice thing," Oscar Jorge said of the encounter with Ripken. "It's not every day you meet a Hall of Famer."

Carl Johnson, 44, who lives in York County, Pa., and is a former resident of Street, brought a poster of Ripken celebrating his 2,131 games, but he was not able to get an autograph.

Johnson still enjoyed the experience of seeing a player he has met and obtained autographs from in the past, and remembers watching him play as a child.

"It was neat to see him, because he was very accommodating, hands on with the people," Johnson said. "It's a luxury to have him here and this available, really."

Joe Harrington, the IronBirds' general manager, said Ripken will return to the stadium for interviews Aug. 7 and Sept. 2. The 20th anniversary is Sept. 6, but Ripken will celebrate the anniversary with IronBirds fans on Sept. 2, Harrington said.

Harrington said Ripken has talked about various topics during the interviews, including his relationship with his late father, Cal Ripken Sr., before this year's Father's Day game.

The GM noted he has seen a bump in attendance on nights when Ripken is scheduled to appear.

"He's making a lot of time for us this year," Harrington said. "He's just adjusted his schedule to be here."

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