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Ripken honored with medal from Smithsonian

Special to MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. has another award to add to his treasure trove of honors. On Tuesday night, the Iron Man received a gold medal from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Ripken was presented with the "Great Americans" medal by the Smithsonian, which recognized his "lifetime contributions that embody American ideals and ideas."

WASHINGTON -- Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. has another award to add to his treasure trove of honors. On Tuesday night, the Iron Man received a gold medal from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Ripken was presented with the "Great Americans" medal by the Smithsonian, which recognized his "lifetime contributions that embody American ideals and ideas."

The 57-year-old Ripken, who played 2,632 consecutive games with the Orioles from 1982-98, spoke about his career and his life after the Major Leagues with David M. Rubenstein, chairman of the Smithsonian's Board of Regents.

Ripken, who will be making his fourth international trip to promote baseball in the Czech Republic from April 21-26, is a special adviser to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred on youth programs and outreach. On previous trips, he has been to China, Japan and Nicaragua.

"We're trying to get kids to play more baseball and play longer, and maybe produce more baseball fans and not only big league players," Ripken said.

Ripken grew up surrounded by the game, following his father, Cal Ripken Sr., who managed Minor League teams in the Orioles' system. But now there's competition from other sports and leisure activities for children.

"I'm in a group that's trying to make baseball more appealing overall by looking at the rules and trying to make it more active," Ripken said.

The game can still appeal to today's younger audience, he feels.

"It's a cerebral game," Ripken said. "There are a lot of situations ... where the more you understand, you don't mind the pace of the game. I think sometimes you're focusing on too much of the pace. We need to do a better job of explaining what's happening."

Ripken also talked about the foundation named after his father.

"We'll use baseball the way he did to capture kids," Ripken said of the foundation's aims. "As an ice-breaker of sorts, and to help give them an opportunity and a direction in life."

The Smithsonian recently acquired objects from Ripken's career donated by Thomas Tull, a private collector and museum board member. They include a glove from 1999, a bat from the '93-94 era and a ball signed by Ripken and other members of the Orioles.

Ripken couldn't leave without signing autographs or talking about his streak. He says he never has a day when someone doesn't ask him about it, but that doesn't bother him. He remembers in 1995, the year he broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive games streak, people wanted to talk to him about their own streaks.

"I found that to be sort of a wonderful sharing moment of that year," Ripken said.

Rich Dubroff is a contributor to MLB.com.

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