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Ripken Foundation pitching in to feed the hungry

@JoeTrezz
April 7, 2020

For nearly two decades, the Ripken brothers have worked to help kids across the country through the funding of after-school programs and the building of youth fields through their Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation. Now, with the world on pause due to the national emergency spawned by the coronavirus pandemic, they

For nearly two decades, the Ripken brothers have worked to help kids across the country through the funding of after-school programs and the building of youth fields through their Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation. Now, with the world on pause due to the national emergency spawned by the coronavirus pandemic, they are pivoting their philanthropic efforts to a more urgent cause.

Cal Ripken Jr. announced plans Tuesday for the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation to participate in Feeding America’s Strike Out Hunger campaign in an effort to help those affected by COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. By partnering with Ollie’s Bargain Outlet and the Kevin Harvick Foundation, the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation donated $100,000 toward a collective $250,000 contribution to address food insecurity during the crisis. The money will benefit food banks on both the local and national levels.

“The question was, 'How could we help now?' When it came to turning our focus to food insecurity, everybody immediately thought that was a great idea,” Ripken told MLB.com. “If we can use that to encourage other people to get involved as well, we can really make a difference. Instead of sitting around and wondering when things are going to get back to normal, we were very proactive and saw an opportunity to help. And I think everybody feels really, really good about it.”

Ripken announced the contribution on Twitter via the debut tweet on his brand new @CalRipkenJr handle. It is the Hall of Famer’s first foray into social media, though he said he “always saw the value in it and I was always curious about it.” Ripken said he hopes social media can help recreate the kind of communication he enjoyed with fans as a player, which he’s missed in retirement.

“When you first looked at Facebook a long time ago, there were a lot of Cal Ripkens out there, and none of them were me. So maybe I was intimidated by the process because I was a little behind the curve when all that happened,” Ripken said. “I’d been thinking about it for a while but never thought I had the right cause of the right opportunity. This one struck me. You can reach out through the platform to encourage other people to help out. The smallest of donations can help a ton.”

The U.S.’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, Feeding America provides meals to more than 40 million people each year, according to the organization. Every dollar donated helps provide at least 10 meals at member food banks, Ripken and Feeding America both said. Feeding America estimates that $1.4 billion in additional resources will be needed over the next six months to provide enough food for our neighbors struggling with hunger. To donate to the Strike Out Hunger fundraising campaign, visit www.ripkenfoundation.org/donate/strikeouthunger.

MLB Network analyst and former big leaguer Billy Ripken also works integrally with the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, which was founded in 2001 to honor the brothers' late father, the longtime Orioles manager and coach. Ripken Jr. said the Foundation is “committed to helping until there is not a need any more,” calling it “the right thing at the right time.”

“If you can really focus on those positive things, you’ll be better off in the end when things do go back to normal. I always think that way,” Ripken Jr. said. “It’s a good way to cope. Try to find the positive things.”

On that front, Ripken said he was “uplifted” to hear MLB is discussing contingency plans that include the potential of resuming play in Arizona at some point. In a statement released Tuesday, MLB said it is “considering numerous contingency plans that would allow play to commence once the public health situation has improved." The league added that “while we have discussed the idea of staging games at one location as one potential option, we have not settled on that option or developed a detailed plan.”

Ripken referenced the impact his consecutive games streak had after the 1994 strike and baseball’s return after the September 11 terrorist attacks as examples of the sport providing healing in the time of tragedy.

“I know the challenge is great and there are a lot of hurdles, but it made me feel good for just a minute to hear they are working hard on it,” Ripken said. “After 9/11, nobody knew what to expect from baseball after that. And the way baseball was embraced and focused on after that, the patriotism, I think it did play a magical role in us getting past that and in our recovery. I think it brought joy and reminded us of simpler times. I’m not sure, but I know it did exist. Sports have a way of doing that."

Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.