Baseball's Iron Man came to City Hall yesterday bearing gifts for a school system too poor to buy baseball shoes for its players.
Former Oriole Cal Ripken announced the donation of more than $140,000 in equipment, to be shared by the Baltimore City school system's 20 baseball and softball programs.
"We're overjoyed that this equipment can be used and we can celebrate baseball and get the lessons out of baseball that dad taught us," said Ripken, who was there with his brother, former infielder Bill Ripken.
The donation was one of the first major grants to be awarded by the 2-year-old Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, named for the Ripkens' father, a player, coach and manager who died in 1999.
Each team will receive a pitching machine, hitting tee and screen, two dozen baseballs or softballs, five batting helmets, catcher's gear and two bats. Every varsity and junior varsity player will receive a pair of Nike baseball shoes, which the company donated at the foundation's request.
Asked if the gift was prompted by the schools' budget crisis, Bill Ripken seemed to feign ignorance, asking a reporter to repeat the question.
"Whoo! Shoo! That's just way over here," he said, brushing his hand across his crewcut. "I don't think we ever get that deep."
But at another point in a brief news conference with Mayor Martin O'Malley, Bill Ripken said he was taken aback by the needs of the school teams. He was surprised to hear that coaches ask seniors to leave their shoes behind at the end of the season because there is no money to buy replacements.
"That's a very deserving area for us to be in," he said.