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Just Like Dad

Maybe my father could have been a successful major-league catcher if he hadn’t injured his shoulder. We’ll never know. Coming up through the minors I heard a lot of stories about frustrated fathers pushing their sons to achieve something they never did. But Senior wasn’t that way at all. One of his strangest beliefs is that you should do in life what you enjoy doing.

The pressure he did exert on his children was this: whatever we did we should do correctly and to the best of our abilities. He always said, “Be yourself and prove yourself.” He hates anything shoddy or lazy. My brother Billy says I broke Lou Gehrig’s record because I could. I might add, on behalf of my father, and because I could, I should.

Senior was inducted into the Orioles’ Hall of Fame during the 1996 season. At the banquet he was funny, direct and foursquare in his remarks. In conclusion, he said that he accepted the honor on behalf of all the equally dedicated men he had worked with in the minor leagues for all those years.

Then it was my turn. It was difficult. I wasn’t certain I could say what I wanted about my father and what he means to me. So I told a little story about my two children, Rachel, six at the time, and Ryan, then three. They’d been bickering for weeks, and I explained how one day I heard Rachel taunt Ryan, “You’re just trying to be like Daddy.”

After a few moments of indecision, I asked Rachel, “What’s wrong with trying to be like Dad?”

When I finished telling the story, I looked at my father and added, “That’s what I’ve always tried to do.”

Cal Ripken, Jr., and Mike Bryan, “The Iron Man’s Mentor,” Reader’s Digest, August, 1997, p. 131.