Ripken handles plays in 2nd career

Retiree has prepared for off-the-field roles

October 17, 2001|By Jon Morgan | By Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

Cal Ripken, who set the standard for preparedness in his 21 seasons in the majors, has prepped for the second half of his career just as diligently as he did for the first.

He's committed millions of dollars to a complex in Aberdeen that he hopes will become a capital of youth baseball and the headquarters of an international chain of camps and clinics. These will teach "Ripken Baseball" -- one of several terms that the Orioles All-Star trademarked.

He's trying to buy a minor-league ball club to play at the complex and is likely to be approached by major-league teams looking to add his luster to their organizations, as well as a group trying to lure baseball back to Washington.

"I'd still like to live my life learning baseball, being a student of the game, experiencing many things," Ripken, 41, said last month. "I'd like to pass some of that on and test myself and test my philosophies. It could be as a manager, it could be as a coach, it could be as someone that helps shape a whole organization. I'm not so sure yet."

An unflashy superstar in an age of flamboyant athletes, Ripken has always generated more excitement on Main Street than Madison Avenue. He appears headed for a second career that reflects this, one built around entrepreneurialism and his milk-drinking public persona rather than the broadcast booth or commercial soundstage.

Polls conducted by Marketing Evaluations/TvQ Inc., which tracks the popularity of celebrities with its "Q ratings," show Ripken among the favorite celebrities listed by a sample representing a third of Americans. This makes him one of the 25 or 30 most popular of the hundreds of living stars, musicians and athletes studied by the firm, said Henry Schaefer, executive vice president.

"That's pretty good for a sports personality," Schaefer said.

It also opens up a world of business possibilities in which Ripken, who played his final game Oct. 6, can trade on his image of durability and decency.

"He's almost established a brand name, like an Esskay or McDonald's. He's done that by keeping his nose clean and having such a great career," said Joe Geier, president of Geier Financial Management of Ellicott City, who advises high-profile athletes on money matters.

"Michael Jordan did that also, but I don't think he did it to the extent Cal has," Geier said.

Financially, Ripken has far fewer worries than most retirees. He has been paid about $73 million in total by the Orioles since his rookie season in 1982. And, since 1995, when he surpassed Lou Gehrig's record for consecutive games played, he has generated an estimated $4 million to $6 million a year from product endorsements, officially licensed merchandise sales and other commercial ventures. That puts his lifetime earnings at roughly $100 million.

He could afford to spend the rest of his life on a beach somewhere. But that wouldn't be like him.

Laying the groundwork "I think everyone is driven by something, by a sense of accomplishment, especially if you are an athlete. There is a need to do something," Ripken said.

True to his methodical manner, he began thinking about his post-playing career a decade ago.

"Baseball provides you with many opportunities off the field. I just wanted to be able to take advantage of that position," he said.

His agent, Baltimore attorney Ron Shapiro, has long coached his clients to spend their playing days preparing for the rest of their lives. Ripken didn't need prodding, said Shapiro, describing his client as "a very analytical person."

Ripken has invested conservatively, with an eye on the future, said Shapiro, a one-time Maryland securities commissioner. Public stock disclosures included only two in which Ripken's stake was big enough to require notifying regulators. In both cases, Ripken received shares or the right to buy shares in exchange for promoting a business: Sportsline.com, an Internet media firm, and Famous Fixins Inc., a maker of celebrity cereals.

Shapiro said he tries to talk his clients out of enterprises that traditionally attract retired athletes but carry poor odds, such as opening a restaurant or bar. Ripken is an investor in the Towne Hall restaurant in Brooklandville, but doesn't run the place. Plans fizzled to open "Cal Ripken's 2131 Club" -- a term he trademarked in 1997, after surpassing Lou Gehrig's record of 2,130 consecutive games played.

Ripken was involved in one venture that folded-- the Baltimore BayRunners. He acquired 10 percent of the basketball team, which played here during the International Basketball League's 1999-2000 season.

One of Ripken's most visible initiatives is the Ripken Youth Baseball Academy, which may someday have camps operating around the world. Its headquarters are part of a $35 million complex under construction in Aberdeen paid for by taxpayers, sponsors and Ripken. The Orioles donated $1 million.

The first phase of the project is a 6,500-seat stadium for a minor- league team that Ripken wants to buy.

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