WATCH | Opening Day still gets baseball legend Cal Ripken Jr.'s adrenaline flowing.
Saying Cal Ripken Jr. is a legend of baseball is an understatement. The "Iron Man" played in an all-time 2,632 consecutive games, breaking Lou Gehrig's MLB record of 2,130 games and Sachio Kinugasa's international record of 2,215 games. Is that legend enough for you?
What's more impressive is that he did it while playing most of his career at shortstop, arguably the most challenging position on the field; setting an example that's been followed by subsequent major leaguers.
Simply put, Ripken's an icon.
Ripken: a baseball lifer
These days, the former Baltimore Oriole is retired and running Ripken Baseball, an organization that inspires and coaches young players across the country.
But old habits die hard. Especially around this time of the year.
"I don’t have to worry about it anymore. I don’t have to perform, but there is an excitement generated only when the weather starts breaking a little bit. You think, 'Okay, it’s baseball weather,'" a smiling Ripken told Circa.
The opening day of the 2017 baseball season is right around the corner, and it still gets Ripken's adrenaline going. The Iron Man is a traditionalist, one of the few bridges between the game of yesteryear and the pastime we know and love today.
"I find comfort that the bases haven’t changed, they’re still 90 feet. And still 60 feet, 6 inches from the mound," says Ripken. "There are some small differences, specialties in the bullpen, and the role of the starters, and those things. That’s changed a little bit. But bye and large it’s still pretty much the same game."
But aside from the incredible 2016 World Series, baseball viewership has been falling. And that's got baseball executives looking to appeal to a younger fan base. They're exploring rule changes that might speed the game up.
For Ripken, the problem isn't the game itself, it's how young people learn it.
"I have a fancy title with the commissioner. I’m an advisor for youth baseball, and we’ve sat down and looked at how you can make the sport more appealing when you’re learning the game. Can you change the rules a little bit? Can you make it faster? Can you teach it or present it in a different way?"
Those methods of teaching might also have to change based on how baseball is consumed nowadays.
"You can watch it on your phone. You can watch it, you know, anywhere. You can take the game with you all over the place. So, I think kids are just as happy watching something on their phone as they are on a giant TV screen," says Ripken.
If you want to teach the kids about the game, you have to take the game to the kids.
Ripken's organization certainly keeps up with the times, giving baseball tips on Twitter.
But despite his forays into multimedia, and his best efforts to find new ways to educate kids about the sport he loves, Ripken says baseball is incredibly complex. And that coming to appreciate that complexity is how America's pastime will live on in our hearts and minds.
"The more you know, the more you’re really interested in watching in those situations, and the game doesn’t slow down for you." Ripken says teaching young people to approach it analytically as well as athletically will ensure baseball remains a fabric of America.