'Life Is A Grind': Cal Ripken, Jr. Looks Back 20 Years After The Streak

by Elizabeth Baugh
Baltimore Orioles

Imagine working for 2,632 days and never taking a sick day, or even just a day off.

You'd have to really, really love your job to never ask for a day off. And to never take a sick day? You'd think anyone who could do that would probably have to be a non-human.

But there is someone who did it: Cal Ripken, Jr.

Baseball fan or not, you should know his name. If you don't, here's a refresher: Cal Ripken, Jr. played for the Baltimore Orioles from 1981-2001. He's a 19-time All-Star and has won multiple MVP, Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards. In short, he's one of a few who can be called The Greatest Of All Time and actually earn the sentiment.

This Major League Baseball season marks the 20th anniversary of the day Ripken broke Lou Gehrig's record of consecutive games played (Gehrig's was 2,130 games). His 2,131st game came September 6, 1995 at his home stadium in Baltimore, after 16 years of dedication and perseverance.

My family is from Baltimore and as a diehard fan, I've been going to games at Camden Yards since I was in the womb. It's the most beautiful ballpark in America (not open to debate), but during the streak, it was like nothing I'd seen before.

Baltimore fans know about Orioles Magic, but during the streak you could truly feel it in the air. The stadiums were packed to capacity with orange-and-black-clad fans and the games at night were lit up with camera flashes, with the B&O Warehouse boasted massive signs keeping count of Ripken's played games.

Let me remind you, those games were consecutive. A tremendous amount of willpower and sheer athleticism went into achieving that record.

So how did he do it? What's the secret? Ripken says among other factors, it comes down to doing what you love.

He told Elite Daily,

I was resilient enough, and I was strong enough mentally to keep pushing through any of the challenges. So I don't know, the mental strength to be able to deal with failure and then still look for the success, maybe that was a trait? But I think in some ways, things just kinda fell in the right way. I had the right physique and the right healing powers and then mentally, I could forget yesterday and really concentrate on today.

Physically, though, the games took their toll. Just because he kept playing doesn't mean he was never injured. Ripken once sprained his knee in a bench-clearing brawl vs. Seattle; he hyperextended his elbow; he probably lost count of the number of times he was hit by a pitch.

But after the elbow incident, he played through it by altering his swing and says he was able to hit better than ever. They don't call him "The Iron Man" for nothing:

I always believed that some of these smaller injuries, if you can get through them, sometimes there was a silver lining in there somewhere. And you had to keep playing to see what it was.

Ripken seemed to keep this silver lining mentality throughout his career, and still does. As with baseball, life comes with wins and losses, ups and downs.

How does one keep finding those silver linings? How is it possible to carry on day after day, even in a season of lows?

Ripken said,

I really enjoyed practicing, I really enjoyed every aspect of the game, and I really enjoyed learning. You want to keep an open mind to find something new each day, to learn each day, to take each experience as an opportunity to be better. You've gotta find the things that excite you and try to learn. So, I think it's more of an attitude than anything. It's taking practice and taking the mundane things that you do and trying to be really good at them.
Facebook/Cal Ripken, Jr.

In baseball, every at-bat, infield grounder and every inning of every game is different. Still, a player enters every game to do the same job he's required to do. Just like the rest of us.

Ripken himself admitted there's monotony in everything, but he did have advice for how to keep from getting too sick and tired of your job. For him, the key is looking for the positives:

You've gotta recognize that life is a grind. But right when you think its getting too monotonous, you'll discover something new right in front of you. Don't miss those.

There are a lot more transactions in baseball today. You don't see as many homegrown players staying with the same teams for their entire careers, let alone chasing the consecutive game streak. Ripken doesn't attest that to commitment, though. If anything, he thinks today's players are more committed than before, training harder during the offseason and every single day.

He told Elite Daily,

There is sort of a change in attitude of what an everyday player is. But I love it when someone plays 162 [a full MLB season] for the first time and realizes that they can make that sort of commitment and contribution to the team.

He knows how committed fans are, too, which is why he teamed up with Kellogg's Rice Krispies Treats.

It makes sense, considering at one point, he played for the Orioles with his brother, Billy, while they were managed by their father, Cal, Sr. They were basically the Snap, Crackle and Pop of baseball during those years.

Wikimedia Commons

Cal and Rice Krispies are taking two fans to the 2015 All-Star Game to play catch and hang out with him. It's the opportunity of a lifetime, and anyone who wants to enter can buy the Rice Krispies Treats With Ripken's picture on it and enter the promotional code online.

Unfortunately, we can't all be winners. But we can take a page out of Cal Ripken, Jr.'s book and just keep going.