Bill Ripken: Some investments are risky, but they’re in his dream [classic article]

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Ah, the Ripken name.

For generations, it has been synonymous with baseball, hard work and family values. Bill Ripken — formerly known as Billy Ripken — is the son of the late Orioles manager Cal Ripken Sr. and brother of the retired baseball legend, Cal Ripken Jr. Bill himself played in the major leagues for more than 12 years, half with his family and the Baltimore Orioles, the rest in Texas, Cleveland and Detroit.

Known for spectacular defensive plays, Bill Ripken led all major league second basemen in fielding percentage in 1992 and led the Orioles in hitting in 1990. He retired in 1998, three years before his brother.

In 2001, Bill became the co-owner and executive vice president of Ripken Baseball, the corporation set up to handle the many business opportunities of brother Cal Jr. Presently, the company has five subsidiaries: Ripken Baseball Camps and Clinics; Ripken Professional Baseball, the Aberdeen (Md.) IronBirds; The Aberdeen Project; Ripken Management & Design and the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation. In 2004, Bill toured with his brother to promote their book, “Play Baseball the Ripken Way.” Additionally, Bill is known as an inspiring, yet self-deprecating, public speaker, rallying local chamber of commerce meetings and corporate seminars alike.

Bankrate: You and your family have made a commitment to your hometown of Aberdeen, Md. How did you decide to do that?

Bill Ripken: Could we have built our complex in other areas? Yes. But dad was the ultimate in our lives, and he was from Aberdeen.

Bankrate: With all of your public service, have you ever thought of running for public office?

Bill Ripken: (Laughs) Well, we’ve had snags or hiccups, you have that in any job, were we’ve said, “There must be an easier way.” I’ve really tried to push my mom into running, but she wants no part of it. There’s never a 100-percent-smooth road. I try to make the case for the good of the area. But, I compare the job of a politician to being an umpire: Both sides will yell at you. Eighteen people on the other side will be unhappy. And, most likely, you’ll have at least 40,000 people in the stands angry with you.

Bankrate: How do you pick products or services to endorse?

Bill Ripken: It’s really easy. … not too many people ask. It’s much harder on Cal. “Junior” has to try to uphold an image. It’s a direct reflection of the Ripken name. When something goes wrong, even if it’s not our fault, we’re the ones they’ll look at. We don’t partnership without looking. There are lots of companies that want to associate with Cal.

Bankrate: Who do you think should be the next commissioner of baseball?

Bill Ripken: I’m far from being qualified to judge that mess. We’re more interested in grassroots. We like working with 10- to 12-year-olds, if you can keep the coaches and parents in check. With the majors, all the negatives are covered in the press before the positive. The positive, it doesn’t seem to get the stroke. When the California teams were playing each other in the World Series, that series was great. But, it was the lowest-rated. Also, some areas, like Montreal, won’t “take” to baseball. You have to write it off in my mind. The business of baseball, it has had some black eyes. The game? Nothing wrong with it.

Bankrate: Are minor leagues becoming more popular with the rising costs of attending major league games?

Bill Ripken: It’s a great alternative to major league. With minor and major teams, there’s no comparison, talentwise. It is what it is. With the minor leagues, it’s affordable. There are no parking charges, and it’s $6 a seat. We’ve got zany mascots. They’re two different products. Cal calls the Ironbirds a “countywide high school reunion.” We’re sold out every day. There’s easy access off Interstate 95. We have quick games. It’s about people seeing people.

Bankrate: What areas of the world do you think are untapped for finding new players; for example, Africa, former Soviet bloc, Australia?

Bill Ripken: The Aussies are playing ball, it’s a logical choice. Look at Japan: They have high, high quality players. Puerto Rico has a lot of big-league players. You’re going to have to start at the grassroots level. You won’t find big Soviets coming over here soon, though it’s a great project to try. They’ll have to start bring equipment over there and start with the kids.

Bankrate: Do you manage your own money?

Bill Ripken: I don’t have any. No, I have somebody I trust.

Bankrate: Do you have favorite investments?

Bill Ripken: Most of my investments are conservative. The risky investments are the team and the academy. I don’t have to have a whole lot of people telling me how to run a team. It’s my dream. When I dream, it’s nonconservative.

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