A group representing the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation will begin a State Department-sponsored exchange program in Nicaragua on Sunday that will train coaches and baseball players in Nicaragua, and later this summer, bring Nicaraguan children to Maryland for agricultural training and a baseball camp.
Funded by the SportsUnited division of the State Department, Ripken Foundation representatives will teach wellness and sports to Nicaraguan children in neglected areas of the Western Hemisphere's second-poorest country.
"We are excited to present this unique opportunity as a way to positively affect the lives of children not just in the United States, but all over the world," Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation president Steve Salem said in a statement. "Thanks to the U.S. Department of State and SportsUnited, we are able to provide children with a once in a lifetime opportunity and the tools for success, all while giving them a memorable experience."
In an announcement made in conjunction with the State Department, the Ripken Foundation said the trips are inspired by Orioles legend Cal Ripken Jr.'s own trip to Nicaragua in 2008, plus his goodwill trips to China and Japan as part of his role as special envoy for the State Department. Ripken traveled to China in 2007, and Japan in 2011 with former teammate Brady Anderson.
In November 2008, Ripken and former Orioles catcher and Nicaragua native Ramon Hernandez visited Nicaragua on a five-day diplomacy trip with Ripken Baseball on behalf of the State Department, though the trip was cut short by a day due to unrest over local elections.
Beginning Sunday, Ripken Foundation representatives will work in Nicaragua with the Alexandria, Va.-based Fabretto Children's Foundation, which serves malnourished and neglected populations in Nicaragua, to promote healthy eating and life decisions.
They will also teach a fast-paced, simpler version of baseball known as Ripken Quickball, and donate baseball, softball, and Quickball equipment to three Fabretto locations for continued use once the trip ends.
As part of the return trip in August, 16 Nicaraguan children will be selected via an essay contest and interviews to spend five days in 4-H Club programs before an overnight Ripken Baseball camp in Aberdeen this summer.
The Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation was created in 2001 in memory of the former Orioles manager, and uses baseball and softball to teach character and life lessons to at-risk youth.