Cal Ripken Jr. appreciates Orioles honoring his father in many ways

BOSTON – Cal Ripken Sr. would have loved this.

The man who created The Oriole Way, who breathed life into it through the years and the many ups and downs, was made for the 2024 team. Or it was made for him.

The last two lineups had seven homegrown players, and an eighth, right fielder Anthony Santander, who was plucked out of A ball in the Rule 5 draft. Also a baseball baby who needed care and nurturing.

“I saw a connection to the spirit of Dad right from the beginning,” said Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. “I don’t know that Dad would have taken his uniform off and given it to somebody, but he might have. If it’s that important to you, here.”

Having Senior’s No. 7 on the shelf since 1992 never seemed that important to the family. The time for reflection came a few days ago, after the club sought approval to pass it along to Jackson Holliday, the sport’s top prospect who debuted last night at Fenway Park.

Holliday didn’t push for it. Cal and brother Billy didn’t reject it. They loved the idea.

Longtime clubhouse and equipment manager Fred Tyler, a close friend of the family, phoned Cal to see how he felt about it. How he’d react to the Orioles reissuing the number.

“It’s really interesting in hindsight now,” Ripken said yesterday morning in a phone interview with “I understand the topic has been talked about for a couple weeks, right? I was oblivious to it. I didn’t realize that. My brother Billy told me, yeah, there was some conversation about that. So, I guess he got a heads-up on it.

“I got a call from Freddie around 7:45 in the morning two days ago. It was really weird that it was that early, so I knew there was something. He said, ‘I want to run something past you.’ How do you feel about Jackson wearing your dad’s number?’ My first reaction was, ‘Great.’ And then I started to think about it from the sense of, what a wonderful tribute it was to Dad. It almost was a silent retirement of the number. That was a really nice thing to think about, and I really didn’t think about it all those years. I didn’t think about, ‘Why isn’t somebody wearing No. 7?’ And the fact it was a quiet tribute to Cal Sr. I thought was really cool. At the same time, I thought, how wonderful that this kid is coming.

“It’s interesting if you think about the Tylers and going back to Ernie and Jimmy and Freddie. The Tylers have been around the Orioles for, who knows, 60 years, 70 years? It seems like the Tylers come with the stadium and they’ve seen everybody come and go. They all loved Dad. It was really wonderful that there was that sort of tribute. There was nothing formal. The Orioles didn’t retire his number. It was a wonderful gesture, a wonderful tribute. And I thought, what a positive thing to bring Dad to light again and really what he stood for.

“We’re not going to forget about Dad and whether Dad wore the No. 7 and what Dad’s contribution was to the Orioles and to the players like Singy (Ken Singleton) and Eddie (Murray) and (Al) Bumbry and so many more. No one’s going to forget about that. But it’s nice with the next generation of people pushing through and having the Orioles producing the talent the way that Dad was part of producing talent in the minor leagues and sending it to the big leagues. I just thought it was really cool and it really captured the spirit of the Orioles, the spirit of Dad. I thought it was a good thing.”

Ripken called his brother to check whether they were in agreement.

“Billy was on the same page. He thought it was great,” Ripken said.

“I guess if you look at it from Dad’s number prospective, we’re honored that the likes of Jackson Holliday and the type of player he is and the type of person he is, that he’s wearing Dad’s old number. I like it.”

Holliday drove in a run Wednesday night in his first major league game and scored twice last night, though he's hitless in eight at-bats. The first-overall pick in the 2022 draft, who turned 20 in December, walked down the steps that lead from the visiting clubhouse to the dugout and landed on the biggest stage.

He didn’t tremble. Mature and composed beyond his years, from the intense media attention to the historic ballpark to the nine innings he played.

“That’s the amazing part about it is how he’s so young but how he’s so poised and really unaffected,” Ripken said.

“I didn’t think there were nerves in the game. He might have been a little jacked cause he chased a couple pitches out of the strike zone, which he probably doesn’t ordinarily do. I haven’t seen him enough to know. But his bat comes flying through the strike zone. That’s the amazing part that jumps out. And his instincts defensively. He looks good, he’s learning, and now at second base, he hasn’t played a whole lot of second but he looks pretty comfortable over there, too.

“I haven’t had a chance to see him play a lot. I had a chance to look at him on video a little bit and watch from that. But it’s obvious that he generates a ton of bat speed, he’s got a really good idea at the plate, he's got a good idea of the strike zone. There’s no way that he can’t hit in the big leagues.”

Cal had Cal Sr. and Jackson had Matt, fathers introducing baseball to their sons at a young age, exposing them to a world closed off to most kids.

“You can’t underestimate the value of that,” Ripken said. “His comfort level around ballparks, especially big league ballparks. He’s been around. He’s not in awe of that. There’s a comfort level that comes.

“When I got drafted, I saw a lot of the minor leagues with my dad. The first 14 years of my life were Dad in the minor leagues. I wasn’t overly intimidated about the minor leagues. I was very familiar with that. Other people had to make the adjustments about being out on their own or being away from home for the first time or being on the road. I thought that was a big advantage for me coming through the minor leagues that I had experienced that before. And I would imagine for Jackson, hanging around big league ballparks and being around it just became commonplace for him.”

The future Iron Man made his debut as a pinch-runner for Singleton on Aug. 10, 1981 at Memorial Stadium. A speed advantage that he rarely held.

Ripken scored the winning run in the 11th inning on John Lowenstein’s single. And the rest is history.

“You run out onto a stadium for the first time with a lot of people in it and it feels like you’re on center stage, and I didn’t have that experience, so there’s an adjustment period when I got there. And I doubt if Jackson has any of those feelings,” Ripken said.

“You run out to second base and it feels like, ‘Wow, this is what it’s like with the lights on and everybody in the stands.’ That was a different experience. Sometimes you can internalize that where it makes you more nervous or it puts more pressure on you and you have to get used to that. Get used to the media. I think Jackson’s used to the surroundings.

“My son Ryan talks about how the amazing part about Jackson is, he’s also dealt with the expectations since he was really small, which Ryan can relate to in a pressure situation, that you’re expected to be good, and what’s that mean. Just listening to the interview last night, I thought he was very poised. He understands the big picture. He’s not intimidated by any means. And I think all of those things are great plusses.”

Ripken can relate to pretty much everything Holliday is experiencing except for the social media frenzy. He didn’t have his every movement, every achievement and failure, analyzed online. The pressure dial wasn’t spun as far, other than, of course, carrying his father’s last name and being local and a high draft pick.

That was enough.

“It works both ways,” Ripken said. “It works in the negative and it works in the positive where every move is scrutinized and all that kind of stuff. He has a lot of fanfare and people know about him and can follow him. Minor league baseball now, you can watch pretty much every game. And the social media following and the information, the expectations, you are under a microscope, but I think that’s the environment he grew up in.

“I think to him, really, this is just the next step. Maybe I’m putting words in his mouth, but it just seems to me that he’s accomplished so much so fast and went down there and tore it up in Triple-A, which is what he’s supposed to do. Then, gets the call to the big leagues. It’s just the next challenge for him.”


O's used late-inning lightning to sweep the Red So...
Cowser homers twice and Orioles post sixth comebac...

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to