It didn’t fully sink in until he read the words aloud to his girlfriend, seeking her opinion on the statement that was about to make it official. Baseball is all Ryan Ripken has known. As the son of Orioles legend Cal Ripken Jr., the sport has always been a major part of his life.
“Feels like the right time,” the statement began, “and I have a few things I want to get off my chest.”
As he read those words — which detailed his decision to retire from professional baseball — the emotions hit. He had been ruminating how to say it publicly for over a month, but hitting post on Instagram and Twitter “kind of made it real,” Ripken told The Baltimore Sun.
“For me, I felt so exhausted, so drained,” Ripken said.
And then the flood of well-wishers came, from all parts of his career. From travel ball to Indian River State College to the Washington Nationals and Orioles organizations, he realized how many people helped him along the way.
Ripken played seven seasons in the minor leagues, beginning with the Nationals before joining the Orioles and making it as high as Triple-A Norfolk last season. The former Gilman star was released after the season, and while he trained for another opportunity, the timing seemed right for a change. So the 29-year-old from Hunt Valley put down his glove and looked to what’s next — away from baseball, a game that’s been a near-constant.
That’s part of being Cal Ripken Jr.’s son and Cal Ripken Sr.’s grandson. Baseball follows the last name, and although Ryan Ripken was an eager participant — striving to make his own mark in the sport — there’s so much more out there Ripken hopes to accomplish, and accomplish on his own.
“Growing up with the family I have, and all the accomplishments people look for the Ripkens to do in baseball, I’m very happy and thankful for what my family members have done, and I’m very proud of myself for what I accomplished,” Ripken said. “But I will say I’m excited to show people more of Ryan Ripken that they might not know.
“And that isn’t necessarily associated with being the player, or being the son, uncle or grandson of. That, to me, is going to be a cool experience to see.”
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Ripken doesn’t have concrete plans yet, but he’s finishing an accelerated business degree online from Arizona State. His heart is still around sports, he said, and that could lead to several avenues.
He has ample interest in a sports media route, and doesn’t want to “close the door on baseball.” When that’s “all you’ve known and all you’ve done, you’re going to have a curiosity.”
“There’s so many things to do out there,” he said.
But before starting his next endeavor, he wants to reflect on a journey that began around the Orioles when he was a child and continued with his playing career. He was drafted in the 15th round of the 2014 draft by the Nationals and held a career .234 batting average with 20 homers and 160 RBIs in the minor leagues.
He wishes he could’ve played for 15 years. But Ripken realized that wasn’t realistic and it was time to move on. So he typed out that message, read it to his girlfriend and came to grips with retirement.
Baseball has been there all his life. Now he’ll see what else there is to experience.
“When you get that feeling, you know,” Ripken said. “I hope people will get to see the things I can do outside the game. I’m really excited to show and share that with people.”