Ripken’s strong swan song should come as no surprise
While several of the preferred rides at the new Disney California Adventure aren’t performing in their infancy, Cal Ripken Jr. demonstrated at 39 on Friday in Anaheim that time hasn’t passed him by.
In his first at-bat in his final visit to Anaheim, Ripken treated a crowd of 39,616 at Edison International Field to a well-timed solo homer.
Even though the Angels remain in playoff contention, their fans greeted Ripken with a standing ovation as he came to the plate in the second inning.
After tipping his batting helmet to acknowledge their baseball knowledge, Ripken stepped into the batter’s box and promptly blasted Scott Schoeneweis’ first offering into the left-field seats.
Realizing that it probably was the final time to salute the retiring Oriole, the Angel fans broke into another loud ovation.
The scene is becoming all too familiar as Ripken closes the book on a 19-year Major League career that will ultimately land him in the Hall of Fame.
A few weeks back he was the darling of the All-Star Game as he stroked a homer off Chan Ho Park and was voted the game’s MVP, when his critics questioned why he was in the game at all.
Following the All-Star break, Ripken kept rising to fans’ expectations by homering twice during a rare victory in Atlanta.
However, the critics are finding it hard to believe that Ripken has rediscovered his power stroke, suggesting that pitchers are grooving them over the plate for baseball’s “Iron Man.”
Angels manager Mike Scioscia isn’t buying it.
“You’re looking at the wrong angle,” Scioscia told the Los Angeles Times. “That was Cal coming up with a big moment. He’s been doing that his whole career.”
Besides, what Major League pitcher enjoys serving up a homer to a gray-haired ballplayer in front of thousands of spectators? It’s not good for the ERA, nor future contract negotiations.
To understand why Ripken’s still succeeding while most his age have worn out welcomes in the bigs doesn’t require much leg work – only on Ripken’s part.
Watch him in warm-ups. He’s the last player doing the tedious leg shuffles and sprints before the first pitch. He treats preparing for a game as if it’s as much fun as the game itself.
Obviously, that’s why he played in a record 2,632 straight games. And that’s why he hasn’t quit working. The part-time player’s batting average slipped into the .100s early in the season, but Ripken has raised his final average to almost .260 to go along with nine homers.
Now if Cal could only take over at Disneyland and get that darn looping Screamin’ rollercoaster to perform every day.
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