Although it might’ve been uncomfortable and difficult, Cal Ripken Jr. spent Friday morning doing something he felt was quite necessary.
First, the Orioles legend appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Then, he held a news conference on the sixth floor of the B&O Warehouse to discuss his mother’s abduction from her Aberdeen home July 24, and also make a plea for the public’s help in the search for the suspect.
At one point, Ripken stifled tears when recalling what transpired the night he received the call that his mother was taken.
“It was the worst feeling you can imagine,” Ripken said. “About 9 o’clock at night, my sister called me and said ... that the car with my mom’s tags on it was reported and a woman was tied up in the backseat of the car, and wanted to know if we knew where mom was. So we couldn’t find mom. So then the worst fear was that it was her tied up in the back of the car.
“We just tried to figure it out and tried to help the best we could. I actually physically got in the car and drove around. It was like finding a needle in the haystack, I suppose, but I needed to feel like I was doing something. I think we were hardening ourselves for the worst possibility. I know I was. And then when she was back, brought back, all the emotions that you were storing from hardening yourself against it kind of came out. It was a horrible night.”
Vi Ripken, 74, was abducted at gunpoint from her house July 24 and returned about 100 yards from there, tied up in the backseat, early the next morning.
Police are yet to identify the suspect, but have released video capture photos and a sketch of him - described as a white male of approximately 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds with short brown hair and glasses.
Billboards have also been posted around the city.
On either side of the podium at the press conference, there was a poster with the known information and a number for people to call if they know more: (410)-836-5432.
“Those things have generated a number of leads, which we are continuing to follow,” said Steve Smith, deputy chief of the Aberdeen Police Department, also noting that the nationwide exposure of it should help create more leads.
And capitalizing on that exposure is part of the reason Ripken sat in front of a room of reporters Friday.
“First and foremost, everyone’s been asking how the family is, how mom is, how she’s doing from a health standpoint, and I appreciate all the outpouring of love and support for our family and I want to report that mom is doing pretty good,” he said. “It’s a traumatic situation that she was involved in, traumatic for all of us in the family, and we’re trying really hard to come together to support each other. But mom by and large is a tough, strong woman, who’s able to endure this. So she’s doing pretty good.
“Secondly, I think I’m here to deliver a message that law enforcement needs your help. The investigation is moving along. If you know anything about the case, if you know anything about the identity of the person in the photos, the sketch, I would encourage all of you to call in and report what you know. Law enforcement does need help in this investigation and that’s really the second reason I’m here today.
“This is very uncomfortable, no doubt about it. The set of circumstances that has me before you, it doesn’t feel good. I think it’s the right thing in the end to assist law enforcement to do their job. But I think the reason I decided to do it was mainly to help deliver the message that mom is doing pretty good because everywhere I go, people ask me about my mom. ... She’s the rock of the family.”
Ripken said his mother has not yet returned to her house, the same one where Cal and his siblings were raised, and wasn’t sure when she’d go back.
Ripken multiple times spoke about how the family’s viewpoint, especially Vi’s, has changed because of the incident. However, he said he does still feel safe in his hometown of Aberdeen.
“I can’t change my whole life and be fearful of things because this happened,” Ripken said. “But it certainly changes your perspective. I think we’re always aware of things that occur. Our awareness is heightened, so we think about things completely differently. I know mom thinks about things way differently now and hopefully, you keep your fingers crossed, that you can return to some sense of security and normalcy that we’ve all enjoyed.”
Although that’s the case, had there previously been discussions about his mother no longer living alone?
“My mom’s a very independent, strong person and she loves her independence and she loves the fact that she’s living in a house that we all grew up in,” Ripken said. “So, yes as mom gets a little bit older, you want to help protect your mom the way she protected you when you were smaller. But at the same time, you have to respect that she’s her own person, she’s very strong-willed and I think she really doesn’t want to be affected by this. She wants to return to having the same full joyous life that she had before.”
As for the crime itself, it has been described as odd and unusual considering Vi Ripken wasn’t harmed and was returned the next day.
Cal Ripken shares those feelings.
“I, too, will say it’s bizarre,” he said. “I don’t have any experience to say why it’s bizarre. Mom was taken at gunpoint from her own house, she was tied up and she was driven around, and ... we don’t know why. So it’s bizarre on many levels and it’s unsettling on many levels. It’s strange, to say the least.”
There have been indications that the suspect didn’t know he took Ripken’s mother. Ripken said he felt there was some evidence that it was premeditated since the abductor had the means to bind Vi Ripken with him. But does Cal think his family was targeted?
“I don’t know. No one fully knows the motivation or the reason why,” he said. “I would imagine you have to investigate all possibilities. It’s quite possible it could’ve been a random act. It’s quite possible it could’ve been more than that. You really don’t know and I really don’t have any speculation on the subject.”
Asked whether his mother’s comfort or justice were why he felt it was so important for the suspect to be captured, Ripken said, “I can’t honestly say that I have this overwhelming feeling feeling for justice. I’m thankful and happy that my mom was returned.”
And if Ripken had a chance to talk to the suspect, he said he’s never been good with hypotheticals, even in the baseball realm, but...
“We have a whole lot of emotions right now,” he said. “Who knows whether you can find the right words at the right moment? But I think I struggle with why. So I’d want to know why.”
Among the most important things to Ripken is that his mother hasn’t hidden from the world since such a horrible experience.
“My mom has gone to her granddaughter’s softball games, she’s gone to the IronBirds games, she’s continued to live her life ... in ways that she wants to,” Ripken said. “She refuses to let that affect her from a mental, traumatic standpoint. She’s still a little shaky and we’re all a little shaky.”