Flash back to Sept. 6, 1995. Do you remember where you were? I sure do. Sitting in front of my television set watching one of the greatest men to ever tie on a pair of cleats and stand on a baseball diamond.
This was a night that will always stick with me. At the time I wasn't sure what I was seeing (considering I was in fifth grade, I didn't know much of anything). However, I knew I was watching something special as I saw this man run around the field slapping the hands of any outreached fan.
This wasn't normal. Even though I was young, I knew that baseball players didn't do that for fans. "What was this guy doing?" I thought to myself.
I kept seeing this huge banner with four numbers on it lit up far in the distance plastered to a building near the stadium. It read "18.104.22.168". Obviously something was very special about this number. "How peculiar?" I thought to myself.
I just took in the moment that something special had happened but it was only until I got older that I truly understood what I had witnessed: one of the greatest records ever to be broken.
Cal Ripken Jr. had played the most consecutive games in Major League Baseball history. He had passed the legendary "Ironhorse" Lou Gehrig, who played for the New York Yankees in the 1920s and 1930s.
Lou Gehrig deserves a tribute in his own right (maybe another article for another time).
The record was broken that night, but Ripken still ended up playing nearly 500 more consecutive games. He finally was given a day off on Sept. 20, 1998, to bring the record to 2,632 games.
Think about that for a second. He played 2,632 CONSECUTIVE games spanning 16 seasons. In today's era of free agency and being placed on the disabled list for a little more than a sneeze, who can honestly say they could play that many games?
The man must have been made out of some sort of titanium because he truly earned the title of "Ironman."
Being naturally drawn to baseball and playing it when I was younger, I just seemed to connect with Cal Ripken Jr. I have always been somewhat shy, and Cal seemed the same way.
Seeing how Ripken's teammates had to force him to be congratulated on that September night in Baltimore, it reminded me of myself.
It reminded me that even though he had achieved something so great, he was so humble as to head back to the dugout and get ready for the next inning.
Despite all he had accomplished to that point and all that he would accomplish afterwards (19 All-Star selections, world champion, two-time Gold Glove winner, eight-time Silver Slugger, Rookie of the Year, two-time All-Star MVP) that night was one I will always remember.
I know other role models existed who had accomplished even greater feats through political stands, curing diseases, fighting fires, or rescuing strangers.
However, I believe a role model is someone who really does make a change in your life. Cal Ripken's commitment to hard work and showing up to the ball field despite not feeling up to it really made an impression on me to do the same.
I honor him through the words in this article, but nothing can compare as to when I saw him play on that sacred ground of a baseball diamond. I have always cherished the game of baseball.
I was proud to say that I watched one of the greatest men to ever tie on a pair of cleats and stand on a baseball diamond. Thank you, Cal Ripken Jr.