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Iron Man

Cal Ripken Jr. goes to bat with a business to promote the joy of baseball.

Imagine never missing a day of work in more than 15 years--pushing the ball forward through sweltering weather, a strike and even a death threat. Cal Ripken Jr. did just that, playing in 2,632 consecutive Major League Baseball games from 1982 to 1998 and shattering Lou Gehrig's 56-year-old record. Throughout his 21-year career, Ripken stepped up to the plate more than 11,000 times and had over 3,000 hits.

After setting down his bat in 2001, Ripken turned his perseverance and love of baseball into a business. He's president and CEO of Ripken Baseball, a Baltimore-based sales and marketing business with five divisions: Ripken Management & Design, Ripken Youth Camps and Clinics, the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, the Aberdeen IronBirds, and IronClad Authentics. These subsidiaries offer everything from baseball programs for underprivileged children to sports collectibles.

"I honestly believe the joy of baseball is felt at the grass-roots level. Very few people go to the big leagues," says Ripken, "but all these people can enjoy baseball for the rest of their lives."

That's what drives Ripken today: to promote baseball, emphasizing integrity, endurance, passion and strength, without neglecting the joy of the game--it's "The Ripken Way." Ripken has also been seeding his message internationally, inviting youth teams from across the globe to the Cal Ripken World Series each year.

The success of Ripken Baseball, with sales of $15 million in 2004, proves his determination transcends baseball. "Success is a process--it's continuing to make gains each and every day," says Ripken, 45. "I never set out to break Lou Gehrig's record. My goal was to be good and be available for the team every day, and in business, it's the same approach."

After becoming the Iron Man of baseball, Ripken has begun a new streak in business. He's at the plate, ready to meet challenges and find ways to contribute. As Ripken puts it, "There's always a game tomorrow."

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This article was originally published in the October 2005 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Iron Man.

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