On Sunday, two of baseball’s greatest, classiest players were inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Cal Ripken, Jr. and Tony Gwynn are the epitome of what professional athletes should be both on and off the field. Their induction ceremony and speeches are reminders of all that is good about baseball and professional sports, especially in the midst of so many controversies surrounding every professional sports league. Ripken’s comments are doubtless directed at professional athletes but are also an encouragement to us all. Below are some excerpts from his speech.
- “It took me a while to realize that baseball is one part of my life,” Ripken said. “It was never more clear to me than when I had children. I realized that the secret of life is life, and a bigger picture came in focus. Games were and are important, but people and how we have impact on them are most important. We are the ambassadors for the future. Just as a baseball player wants to make his mark on the game and leave it a little better than he found it, we should all try to make this world a better place for the next generation.”
- “As years passed, it became clear to me that kids see all, not just some of your actions, but all,” Ripken said. “Whether we like or not, we big leaguers are role models. The only question is, will it be positive or will it be negative? Should we put players up on pedestals and require that they take responsibility? No. But we should encourage them to use their influence positively to help build up and develop the young people who follow the game. Sports can play a big role in teaching values and principles. Just think. Teamwork, leadership, work ethic and trust are all part of the game, and they are also all factors in what we make of our lives.”
- “As my career unfolded, I paid attention to my actions,” Ripken said. “I remember when Kenny Singleton showed me a tape of me throwing my helmet down after a strikeout, and all he was said was, ‘How does that look?’ I remember learning about a family who saved money to come to Baltimore to see me play. I got thrown out in the first inning, and the little boy cried the whole game. I remember how I reacted with anger when Dad was fired after an 0-6 start [in 1988], and after each of these events I vowed to act better the next time.”
- “The streak is marked by a number, a start and an end, but I can assure you it was not accomplished with a view to a given number or end point, and I certainly wasn’t aware when I started in this game where it would lead me,” Ripken said. “I truly believe there are no endings, just points at where we begin again as players do 162 times a season and if they’re lucky a few more times each fall.” [...] “As I experience another new beginning with this induction, I can only hope that all of us, whether we have played on the field or been fans in the stands, can reflect on how fortunate we are and can see our lives as new beginnings that allow us to leave this world a bit better than when we came into it.”
- “Where would any of us in this game be without the people who love the game and their teams and who even make trips to events like this long after we’ve put down our gloves and bats?” Ripken said. “I know some fans look at the streak as a special accomplishment, and while I appreciate that, I always looked at it as just showing up for work every day.” [...] “As I look out at this audience I see thousands of people who do the same — teachers, police officers, mothers, fathers, businesspeople and many others. You all may not receive the accolades I have throughout my career, so I’d like to take the time out to salute all of you for showing up, working hard and making the world a better place. Thank you all.”
Read a complete write-up of Ripken’s ceremony, Ripken Uses Speech to Deliver Message.