Wednesday is a big day in the Ripken household, but not simply because Daddy is scheduled to break Lou Gehrig’s consecutive-games record.
It is also the first day of school for Cal Ripken’s daughter, Rachel.
Rachel, 5, is more excited about school than her father’s historic achievement. Her mother, Kelly, has explained to her the significance of the numbers on the warehouse - 2,129, 2,130, 2,131. But the truth is, Rachel is more interested in dancing between innings to “YMCA.”
And Ripken’s 2-year-old son, Ryan?
“He has no clue,” Kelly said, laughing.
Leave it to the kids to keep Daddy humble, to cut the streak down to size.
“Exactly,” Cal Ripken said.
He isn’t just a shortstop, an Iron Man, a future Hall of Famer.
He’s a son, a husband, a father.
Kelly bought him a card in spring training and wrote, “Enjoy the year. Let everyone tell you how great you are.” Ripken took her advice, and stopped fighting the attention surrounding the streak.
“The kids had a lot to do with it,” Kelly said. “The reality of life is, if you’ve got your health - your kids are healthy, your wife is healthy - it puts things quickly into perspective.”
Kelly said the Ripkens learned that after the death of former Baltimore Oriole Tim Hulett’s son, Sam, who was 6 when he was struck by an automobile in July 1992.
They’ve seen tragedy up close and have endured trying times of their own.
Kelly said she visited 12 doctors and tried 25 medications over a three-year period before a psychiatrist finally diagnosed her Graves’ disease, a thyroid disorder, in 1987.
She went through a difficult pregnancy with Ryan in 1993, at a time when Cal was enduring the worst criticism of his career before the All-Star Game at Camden Yards.
And now, with Cal approaching Gehrig’s record, she waits anxiously for the day when security concerns are no longer a part life.
“We’ve had to beef up security, be a little more cautious,” Kelly said. “That definitely has happened. I hope it goes away.”
Cal has received two death threats, one from a man identifying himself as Lou Gehrig Jr., in Seattle on Aug. 23.
“It didn’t shake me up at the moment, but it made me think later on,” Kelly said. “Not everyone is happy that he’s doing this. You never know. You just never know.
“I’ll be relieved for Cal (when it’s over). You’re kind of a sitting duck, no matter how much security you have. When you’re playing shortstop, there isn’t anybody around you. I don’t think about that all the time. But it does cross my mind.”
Her husband’s, too.
“It’s hard to feel you might be at risk, that someone might want to kill you, or even threaten to kill you,” Cal said. “There are all these questions you don’t know.
“It affects the nerves. You try to do what you need to do. My way is not to deny it’s there. You take the necessary precautions, … but don’t let it rule your life.”
Then there are the children.
Cal said concern for their safety raises the precautions “to another level.”
“It really worries me with the kids, especially when I’m out with the two of them, trying to keep an eye on both,” Kelly said. “But in this day and age, who doesn’t watch out for their kids?”