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Tuesday was the start of the fifth...


Tuesday was the start of the fifth annual Reading, Runs and Ripken program. Participants can support literacy services in Baltimore by pledging a dollar amount for every run Cal Ripken drives in this season. The Kelly and Cal Ripken Jr. Foundation will match each pledge. In the past, the program has raised as much as $80,000 in one season, but this year Cal and his wife hope to break the $100,000 plateau. The Sun's Jason LaCanfora sat down with Kelly Ripken at the Ripken Learning Center to chat about the reading program, and, of course, Cal's streak.

Q: What other programs is the Ripken Foundation involved with?

A: We are also involved with a lot of children's charities locally and nationally. We do a lot of work with Johns Hopkins. What happens at our foundation is we get a lot of requests for grants that come in from small organizations and groups, and by getting involved with those groups, I feel that we're able to touch a lot of lives. We also deal with a lot of recreational youth groups and women's health.

Q: How important is the issue of illiteracy to Cal?

A: He believes very strongly in literacy, and he's involved in it as much as he can be. During the baseball season, it is a little difficult for him, but his job is to go out there and get hits for the Reading, Runs and Ripken program.

Q: How can people help fight illiteracy other than by pledging?

A: For the Reading, Runs and Ripken program, it's strictly by pledging. If you want to get involved in other literacy programs, you can contact Baltimore Reads [(410) 752-3595]. Baltimore Reads is the foundation that hosts our program, and the Ripken Foundation is a separate group that supports Baltimore Reads.

Q: Does Cal ever come home from a game and say that he wished he drove more runs in, to raise money for the program?

A: No, he really doesn't. He's a very focused individual and when he is on the field, he is not thinking about reading programs or streaks or anything like that -- it's just the game.

Q: How has the consecutive games streak affected your life?

A: I probably think about it more than Cal does. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that I am reminded of it all the time. I'm excited about it, but I don't want to get overly excited or anything like that. It would be nice, and obviously it would be a tremendous part of history, but we don't discuss it at home. At home, we don't talk baseball. So, I am reminded of it most when I'm out and people say, "Hey, I really hope Cal breaks the streak." And so do I.

Q: Has Cal begun to realize what he is on the verge of accomplishing?

A: I don't think he has. I would imagine that as it gets closer -- he'll still approach the game as he always does -- but inside he must be thinking that tomorrow might be the day, or something like that. But I don't think right now he's thinking about it. He's very focused, and he only looks at today.

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