The Baltimore Orioles Hall of Famer offers wisdom on being a ‘gamer’—no matter what field you work in.
On September 6, 1995, Cal Ripken Jr. broke one of the most hallowed records in Major League Baseball history when he surpassed Lou Gehrig’s “unbreakable” streak of 2,130 consecutive games played. He did it by just showing up. Today, the 62-year-old Ripken uses his Iron Man streak—which ended three years later after 2,632 games—as first-class advice on sustaining any career.
“You can’t accomplish anything unless you’re willing to show up,” Ripken tells Forbes. “You want to be counted on. There’s a term in baseball called ‘gamer.’ All that means is that you’re willing to come show up and try to meet whatever challenge it is today.”
While Ripken, who entered the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007, is obviously proud of the streak, he doesn’t consider it as merely an attendance record. “You have to be deserving, and you have to put your time in, and the manager chooses you,” he says. “People look at the streak in a way where it’s a principle,” he continues. “It’s a value. People are proud of not missing a [workday] in 31 years. It’s not necessarily just the attendance but the willingness to go do it. The willingness to show up.”
Ripken, of course, did much more than show up in 21 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles. In 1983, he helped the franchise win the World Series, was twice named the American League MVP, and he made 19 All-Star games.
Following his retirement in 2001, he co-founded Ripken Baseball, a sports company that operates youth baseball academies, and Cooperstown All Star Village, a baseball tournament and resort near the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. In January, Ripken Baseball received an undisclosed investment from Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment(HBSE), the sports empire owned by billionaire Apollo co-founder Josh Harris, Blackstone
“We always had plans for expansion, but we had to do it more slowly, more strategically,” Ripken says. “We’re much more open-minded, more prepared, and ready to expand than we ever were.”
Back on the diamond, MLB is preparing to host its 93rd All-Star Game in Seattle on July 11. The league is experimenting with rule changes, including a pitch clock to attract younger fans. But count Ripken as a critic of the changes, particularly having a “ghost runner” on second base to start extra innings. “I think you have to earn your way to get on and win that in extra innings,” Ripken says. However, there are benefits to some of the new rules. For example, baseball games are 30 minutes shorter this season, and the pitch clock is a significant reason. “I do like the clock,” he admits. “But I hope at some point the clock goes away and the pace of the game just happens by itself.”
Ripken says he closely monitors the next generation of shortstops when discussing up-and-coming MLB stars. “I’m kind of infatuated with [Orioles shortstop] Gunnar Henderson right now,” he says. “He’s got all kinds of talent. He struggled early on, trying to get his feet off the ground, but now it seems like he is moving a little bit. I like watching the development of the middle infielders.”
And Ripken can watch in comfort, knowing that, like Gehrig, his consecutive games streak is practically unbreakable . None of the newcomers will ever surpass the icons if they fail to show up. “It’s kind of funny,” Ripken. says, “when I talk to people sometimes, I tell them, ‘Yeah, I was lucky enough–I played 3,001 games in the big leagues, damn near all of them in a row.’”
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