Cal Ripken Jr. says he is happy for John Maroon, now that his longtime publicist is going into business for himself. "It's something that he really wanted to do," Ripken said by telephone, while on a multicity tour promoting his latest book, Parenting Young Athletes the Ripken Way.
Maroon, who recently set up his public relations office in Marriottsville, will continue to handle publicity for Ripken, but he is working for himself now and taking on other clients, as well.
Ripken, who retired from the Orioles in 2001 holding the record for most consecutive games played (2,632), said he will miss being able to walk into Maroon's office whenever he needed to speak with him. But overall, he said, "it's almost like he hasn't left."
In fact, the Ellicott City resident was flying to New York that night to help Ripken with promotional appearances on two television shows, Good Day New York and The View. Ripken ended the phone conversation by joking: "Don't tell him I said anything good about him."
Maroon and Ripken met in 1995, right after the baseball strike. Maroon had become head of publicity for the Orioles, and the team was in Sarasota for spring training. Reporters were swarming around Ripken because the big question of the day was whether Ripken's streak would still count if the managers began using replacement players.
Maroon remembers meeting Ripken's eye as the ballplayer stood in the middle of the media circus. The rest, as they say, is history. "We ended up forming a really good relationship," Maroon says. Together, they developed a plan for dealing with the media. Ripken says he and Maroon have always "thought along the same lines."
Maroon, 40, grew up in New Jersey and graduated from St. John's University in Queens, N.Y., with a degree in sports management. He was not an athlete, but he always loved baseball, he said. Back then, he was a Yankees fan, but Maroon insists that his heart belongs to the Orioles now.
After college, he got an internship with baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth, which led to a job as publicity assistant in the office of the American League. That, in turn, led to a job with the Cleveland Indians from 1990 to 1994. Maroon joined the Orioles the next year.
He had not planned on a career in baseball, he said, but the pieces seemed to fall into place for him. "I was lucky. It was all being in the right place at the right time," he said.
But after a few years with the Orioles, Maroon started to tire of the job. He worked for the Redskins during the 1999-2000 season, but "I didn't enjoy it that much," he said.
Then Ripken called and asked Maroon if he would consider working for him. Maroon became a full-time staffer for Ripken Baseball, starting in 2000. He has been vice president of communications for Ripken Baseball for the past five years.
Ripken Baseball has many arms, including the Aberdeen IronBirds, Cal Ripken's career as an author and speaker, Ripken baseball camps and tournaments, and the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works with disadvantaged young people.
Still, going from a team publicist to Ripken baseball was "an adjustment," acknowledged the talkative, down-to-earth Maroon. "There's something exhilarating about working for a team." But working for Ripken meant less travel because he did not have to follow a team around the country.
Recently, though, Maroon began yearning for new challenges. "I just needed something new," he said. He approached Ripken with his plan: He would go into business for himself and take Ripken on as a client.
Now, Maroon has opened Maroon PR, to handle communications, branding and events. Ripken Baseball is his largest client, but he has also signed the Babe Ruth Museum in Baltimore and he is doing pro bono work for the Greyhound Pets of America, an organization that finds homes for former racing dogs.
Last week, his office was in disarray. Computers had not been set up, and Maroon was fielding messages on his BlackBerry. But Gabe, the greyhound he adopted in July, seemed right at home, padding around on the new carpet before stopping for a rest on the dog bed set up in Maroon's office.
Maroon's staff consists of Jen Bloomer, 24, who grew up in Baltimore and holds a degree in sports management from James Madison University; Keith Mills, a former sports personality at Channel 2, who will work part time; and Andrea Kunicky, the office manager. Maroon plans to hire another account executive, he said.
Maroon PR is at 11055 Stratfield Court, Marriottsville, 21204. 410-442-1221. The Web site is www.MaroonPR.com.