My Turn: Cal Ripken's Business Transition

Even as a young player, I began thinking about life after baseball. I knew that if I was lucky I might play for 20 years and that would mean that I would be only 40 when I retired. I wanted to have a plan for moving into the next phase of my life. When I decided to retire at the end of the 2001 season, I announced it early in the season because I knew that I would be asked the question "What will you do next?" This way, I would have a platform to talk about my business plans. I already had a sales and marketing company, but now Ripken Baseball would allow me to pursue a range of interests. My partner was my younger brother Bill, another former major-league ballplayer. Our mission: to grow the game of baseball everywhere through "The Ripken Way"—a set of principles that I believe applies to sports, business and much of life. It was these principles—hard work, fair play, consistency—that led me to succeed on the field and now.

Now a business with 100 employees and annual revenue approaching $25 million, the Ripken Baseball Group is made up of different entities that involve athletics, kids, licensing, memorabilia and philanthropy. We own two minor-league baseball teams—in Augusta, Ga., and in our hometown of Aberdeen, Md. We also own and operate two youth baseball facilities in Aberdeen and Myrtle Beach, S.C. We teach the game of baseball to thousands of kids each year, which is a passion for Bill and me, just like it was for our late dad. We also run a foundation named in his memory. The Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation does great things for disadvantaged kids across the country. My mom is the foundation's president. In the last three years, we've awarded grants of nearly $4 million to refurbish fields, to provide equipment and to sponsor tournaments.

Our newest business venture is Ironclad Authentics, which handles the marketing of my signatures and memorabilia, as well as those of other athletes'. The sports-memorabilia industry has grown by leaps and bounds since I first got into the game—now a multimillion-dollar business. I always enjoyed signing autographs and I thought it was a great way to bridge the gap from the field to the stands.

In my other off-the-field activities, I continue to serve as a spokesman for many companies, including Comcast, Bank of America, XM Radio, Chevrolet, Energizer and Holiday Inn. In addition, I have become pretty popular on the speaking circuit and I have come to greatly enjoy that. One of the speeches that I give centers on perseverance and it was so popular that it has led to a book. "Get in the Game: Eight Elements of Perseverance That Make the Difference." Published this week, the book aims to show how much of what I learned during my baseball career now applies to my life in business: a strong will to succeed, being prepared and maintaining the courage of your convictions, to name just three.

This year will be an exciting one for my family and me. In January I was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Receiving that call while surrounded by my family was special. I am sure that the induction ceremony in July will be very emotional, as well. As a result of the election to the Hall of Fame our business has received extra attention, and my endorsements and speaking engagements have picked up.

There are many athletes who play their respective sport and then want to kick back, play golf and live a more leisurely life. I respect that, but that isn't how I'm built, and I'm really enjoying this next phase of my life. Ultimately my dream is to help shape a Major League Baseball organization from top to bottom. If that opportunity ever presents itself, it's one I'll look long and hard at.

I am very happy that I started planning for this part of my life so many years ago. The transition from baseball to business has gone well and I am excited to continue to learn, to meet interesting and smart people, and continue to build Ripken Baseball and what ever other opportunities come my way.

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