Cal Ripken to address University of Maryland grads

University of Maryland, College Park students can expect a home run from their spring graduation speaker.

Orioles great Cal Ripken Jr. will deliver the commencement speech at the May 19 ceremony, the university announced Tuesday.

"As a Marylander I am excited and very much look forward to delivering this speech to the graduating students," Ripken said in a statement. "I hope that my life experience allows me to impart some wisdom and give them a message that will serve them as they start their careers."

Ripken, who began playing professional baseball after high school, never attended college. But he said he has "great respect for higher education and the great value it brings to young people."

Students on the committee that selected Ripken said they were thrilled to have a hometown hero speak.

"Many Maryland students and alumni grew up idolizing Mr. Ripken's talents, hard work and determination. To hear him address the graduating class will be an once-in-a-lifetime experience," said senior Alysia Cutchis, co-chair of the committee.

University president Wallace Loh said Ripken would be an "inspiration" to the 7,000-plus students set to walk across the stage.

"Throughout his career, Cal Ripken Jr. has shown himself to be a natural educator, an extraordinary athlete, and a generous philanthropist who has exhibited dedication and heart in all that he has accomplished," Loh said in a statement.

Many of the graduates were only in preschool when Ripken, who played shortstop and third base for the Orioles for 21 years, broke Lou Gehrig's record for consecutive games played in 1995. When Ripken ended his streak in 1998, he had played 2,632 games.

Since his 2001 retirement, Ripken has channeled his passion for the sport into a foundation, Ripken Baseball, and has traveled the world teaching children about baseball as a special public diplomacy envoy for the U.S. State Department.

julie.scharper@baltsun.com

twitter.com/juliemore

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