Spring training is just getting under way, but Cal Ripken Jr. was batting 1.000 yesterday at Roland Park Country School in Baltimore. Eight out of eight young women who sampled the new Cal Bar candy bar, named for the popular Orioles' shortstop, gave it a thumbs up.
"It's good," said Julia Garrett, an eighth-grader, at an informal taste test.
"Usually I don't like peanuts in candy bars," said Carolyn Holliday, an 11th-grader, "but I like the peanuts in this, they taste good with the caramel."
"I like caramel," said Marina Dureza, a fifth-grader.
Libby Sheain, a first-grader and the youngest taster, nodded in solemn agreement.
L "It's a little chewy," said Meghan Donnelly, an 11th-grader.
"It's good," said Christina Fulton, a third-grader.
Mr. Ripken is particularly pleased with the peanuts in the bar that bears his name ("And my mug," he joked). "They're fresh peanuts," he said after a press conference yesterday at Camden Yards to mark the introduction of the bars into the retail market. "Sometimes peanuts in a candy bar don't stand out much." The fresh peanuts make the taste "a little bit different."
Mr. Ripken, who is donating all his royalties from the candy bar sales to charity, tried and rejected several candy-bar formulas before he got one he liked. "Coconut was definitely a no," he said.
The press conference was attended by about 30 children from the Jacobsville School in Anne Arundel County, who sold 680 cases of Cal Bars as a fund-raising project earlier this month. Bobby Ketterer, a first-grader, asked the first question, reading it from a tiny piece of paper and referring to Mr. Ripken once or twice for help: "What. Is. The . . . best thing. About. Having a candy bar. Named after you."
"The best thing is that I get an an endless supply of the candy bars," Mr. Ripken said, drawing a laugh. "No, I think the best thing is that it's an opportunity to help kids and schools."
The candy bars are made by Morley Candy Makers, a 73-year-old, family-run Michigan firm with a regional office in Millersville. Morley introduced the bars earlier this year by making them available to schools and other groups for fund-raising.
"To date we've sold about 800,000 Cal Bars," said Morley's Kerry Hitchings, noting that the candy earned about $400,000 for the groups that sold them.
In brief remarks before the question period, Mr. Ripken explained his involvement with the candy bar. "My motivation, when Morley came to us, is that it's a fund-raising company . . It really struck me that Little League organizations and schools were going to be two areas that were going to benefit the most from the sale of this candy bar. And education and, obviously, organized athletics are very important to me.. . . To me, it was a win-win-win project."
Suggested retail price for the bars is $1. Mr. Ripken's share, 7 to 8 cents, will go to the Kelly and Cal Ripken Jr. Foundation, which benefits a variety of community projects, including The Ripken Learning Center, Baltimore Reads Inc., the Johns Hopkins Children's Center and the Baltimore School for the Arts. The bars should be available initially at smaller shops and groceries and convenience stores; eventually they will be more widely available.
Also attending the conference were representatives of Subway Sandwich Shops; starting March 1, more than 50 of the shops in the Baltimore-Washington area will be donating all their proceeds from sales of the candy bars to the Ripken Foundation.
Morley's involvement with sports figures began about a year ago. Other athletes with candy bars named for them are Isiah Thomas of the Detroit Pistons, Randall Cunningham of the Philadelphia Eagles and Scottie Pippen of the Chicago Bulls. All the athletes are donating at least part of their royalties to charity; so far Mr. Ripken is the only one who is putting all the money directly into a foundation.
"We have an opportunity to be selective," Mr. Hitchings said. "We're not looking to do candy bars with people who are just going to take the money and run."