After a legendary Hall of Fame baseball career, Cal Ripken Jr. is currently spending his time as the CEO and President of Ripken Baseball Inc. as well as the recently minted spokesperson for Roy Rogers Restaurants.
Total Food Service caught up with Cal Ripken Jr and discussed life after baseball, what drew him to Roy Rogers, and what he’s up to next.
A number of our readers may have lost touch with you since you retired from baseball. Can you give us a quick recap of what you’ve been doing since baseball?
I left baseball with the big plan to get into the youth baseball business. We now have three complexes that we run tournament experiences out of, we run camps, and we help teach baseball.
You have always spoken about the role that your dad played in your life?
We try to pass along the love of the game that Dad gave us. We try to pass it along to aspiring baseball players. We started a foundation after we lost our Dad that has grown to a national movement.
What else have you been doing? Weren’t you doing TV for a long time?
I continued there for about ten years or so. I did the broadcast work for TBS. I’m not doing that anymore. But it was fun to learn a little bit about that industry. And I’ve maintained my corporate sponsorships.
That’s why I’d like to talk to you being a spokesperson for the Roy Rogers Restaurants today.
It is a new relationship, which every time I mention that, it makes me smile. Because as a kid, that was a special night out. My dad managed in the minor leagues for the first 14 years. So many times, we were looking for good, quick food. And I remember going to Roy Rogers, and my favorite sandwich was the roast beef sandwich. Not only did I love the food but also it reminds me of the good times with my Dad and family fabric.
How did the deal come together with Roy Rogers?
We started talking about being able to help each other, they were celebrating their 50th year, which made me curious right away. That turned into a discussion of how we could help the foundation, which is in my dad’s name. I knew we were on the same page. We had the same values and I knew it was going to be a good match.
Talk about how you did your due diligence on Roy Rogers?
I started with a trip to a couple of their stores. They were trying to teach me how to work in food prep and then at the take-out window. It was fun talking to customers.
So any interest in owning a franchise or being in the restaurant industry?
I’m not a franchisee yet just a spokesperson for now. But I’m curious.
Talk about the role of food and beverage with your minor league baseball operations?
Well, we’ve got a moderately team business and of course there’s a concession agreement. In the beginning we brought in a third party.
Ultimately, we wanted control over the overall experience, so we took it over. We had moderate success and we continue to learn. We recently have opted to put that back in the hands of people who have more experience.
Can we get your thoughts on proper nutrition for a young ballplayer? Where does a menu like Roy Rogers fit in?
To me, it’s a lot of common sense. It goes back to my mom lecturing on the basic four food groups, all that she said was it’s important to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s important to get your balance of different types of foods. Now a days you can get a whole lot more scientific and there’s a whole lot more information to make the right choices. So I think with Roy’s you can make some good healthy choices when you come in.
I’m getting a whole new look now. I am re-engaged with my son who now is now in the minor leagues. The logistics of playing in the minor leagues of baseball is that after you play a night game and you’re going to get on the bus and go to the next stop and fast food is usually the option. It’s less expensive, and time matters. You’ve got to get on the bus and go to the next city. So you’re constantly looking for which places are open at those hours, and I can firmly remember that in my mind.
I’m glad that Roy Rogers has some of those healthy choices. But it’s all part of learning to become a “pro”. You need to learn balance.
You played with the Orioles with your brother and for your dad. A lot of our businesses, a lot of our restaurants, are actually family-owned businesses. So can you talk about succeeding in a family business environment?
I loved the opportunity. Some other people see it as undue pressure on you because it challenges and creates super expectations. I never looked at it that way. The biggest value was you get a chance to work with your dad and you could see his principles of work, number one. He really worked hard. He did things the right way and he gave you that road map as an example of how to go about handling it yourself.
Even though it’s hard for me to still call baseball work, it’s a game. But because you are doing it for a living in reality it is work. Most importantly, when we were together as a family, sometimes we just focused on our jobs, instead of each other.
We would be remiss, if we didn’t mention the 110 losses by this year’s Orioles. Your thoughts?
Don’t forget, I played for a team that lost 107 games and lost 21 games to start the season. We were the laughing stock of the league. So the reality is that they’re going through a rebuilding situation. So I feel for them, I’ve been there, I know how it feels.
Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?
Today, you can rebuild a good team together relatively fast. It is about making good baseball decisions and drafting well, and then having them come together at once.
You’ve seen Derek Jeter buy the Marlins. Any interest in buying the Orioles?
Right now my plate is full.
We keep hearing that baseball has no young fans?
From my experience, I would still see lots of interest with young people. I am still amazed at the enthusiasm when I sign baseball cards. As a kid, I played soccer, basketball and baseball. The problem today is that in an area like Maryland kids opt for a single sport like Lacrosse at a very young age. It’s a pretty good game but I hate that kids are locked into one sport so early.
World Series pick? [Editor’s Note: this was asked before MLB Playoffs began]
I like the construction of the Red Sox team. I think that they played really well and they are balanced and they can score. They can win the one run games, so I like a team like that.