BRICK – Brian Dinan would not be stopped. Not even a long ride from his New York City home could prevent Dinan from meeting his idol, Cal Ripken Jr.
“I took a four-hour train ride for this,” Dinan said.
Dinan rubbed elbows with the baseball legend at the Roy Rogers on Brick Boulevard.
Ripken Jr.’s appearance Monday, April 30 coincided with the fast food chain’s 50th anniversary and its partnership with the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation. The organization provides underserved youth with mentors, sports opportunities and educational experiences.
Ripken Jr. is the 2018 spokesman for the Maryland-based Roy Rogers Restaurants. The Maryland native will appear in commercials and on social media feeds throughout the year.
Dinan joined an estimated 300 fans for an hour or so of hero worship.
“This is the first day I took off from work all year – just to meet Cal,” the limousine dispatcher said. “I like his work ethic and determination. You can’t teach that. One thing I took from him is his determination. He was a no-nonsense player. He was one of a kind. They don’t make ’em like that anymore.”
Ripken Jr. is best known for playing in a major league record 2,632 straight games – all with the Baltimore Orioles.
“NBA (National Basketball Association) guys take routine days off and schedule their days off,” Dinan said. “Cal played 2,632 consecutive games without missing one. That’s impressive any way you slice it.”
Dinan, Brick Township resident Fred Bailey and numerous others wore No. 8 Ripken jerseys as they paid homage to their hero. Bailey, 38, grew up in Hollywood, Md., about 90 miles south of Baltimore.
“He was a good role model and a Maryland guy,” Bailey said. “There is a lot of Maryland pride. Plus, he is great.”
Ripken Jr. played in the major leagues from 1981-2001. A .276 lifetime hitter, he stroked 3,184 hits, slugged 431 home runs and drove in 1,695 runs. He was a 19-time American League All-Star from 1983-2001, playing shortstop and third base for the most part. He helped the Orioles win the World Series in 1983. He was named the American League Rookie of the Year in 1982. He won the Gold Glove Award in 1991 and 1992.
He captured the American League Silver Slugger Award from 1983-86 and in 1989, 1991, 1993 and 1994. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, winning 98.53 percent of the vote from the Baseball Writers Association of America on the first ballot in 2007.
Ripken Jr., whose jersey was retired by the Orioles, is a member of the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame and the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.
“He’s the rise of the power hitting shortstop,” Bailey said. “I have the commemorative ticket from his last game.”
Ripken Jr.’s legend is known among this generation of youth.
“He was a great player as I heard from my dad,” said Jon Sauvlet, 12, of Toms River. “My dad (Steve) always talks baseball with me. He educated me about what is good about Cal.”
“We used to go to all of Cal’s games when he played,” said Jon Sauvlet’s grandmother, Nancy Grimsley, of Toms River. “We are all Baltimore fans. He was such a fantastic player who did so much for our community in Maryland. He was very involved with all of the kids and the town.”
Ripken Jr. was plenty involved at the event.
He was mobbed by admirers and wound up signing autographs in the parking lot and restaurant as Brick Township and Toms River Township police officers provided security in 60-degree temperatures under cloudy skies. Restaurant workers snapped pictures of Ripken Jr.
He shook hands with employees. He signed a baseball bat for Mike Reeves of North Paterson. Ripken Jr. placed his John Hancock on numerous bats, baseball cards that contained his picture, baseballs, Cal Ripken Jr. jerseys and a Cal Ripken Jr. poster.
One fan told Ripken Jr. while the former star worked the counter, “I enjoyed coming down to Camden Yards (the Orioles’ home) to watch you play. Thanks a lot.”
Ripken Jr. hailed Roy Rogers’ streak of serving food.
“They have a nice little streak of their own as they are celebrating their 50th year,” he said. “They started taking an interest in the Foundation and I felt we would be a perfect match. ”
Ripken Jr. stepped up to the plate behind the counter, serving all kinds of food to customers.
“It seems like I am getting in the way in the kitchen,” he said with a laugh.
Ripken Jr. said he was impressed at the reception he received from fans.
“I always felt New York City was the most exciting place to play,” he said, “but there are a lot of Orioles fans here.”
The legend and hero to many said the Foundation plays a large role in promoting baseball.
“We have 75 youth development sites around the nation and we’re working on adding another 25 more,” he said. “We’re not only trying to help the kids in the inner cities play baseball. We’re trying to help kids – period – in all talent pools. We present the game and do clinics internationally. I just got back from Prague.”
Ripken Jr. on a recent Friday night took in a game at FirstEnergy Park, the home of the Lakewood BlueClaws, the Philadelphia Phillies’ low Class A team which competes in the South Atlantic League. He was in town to watch his son, first baseman Ryan Ripken, play for the Delmarva Shorebirds, a Baltimore farm team, in its 5-1 victory in front of 4,614 fans. Ripken went 1-for-4 and drove in one run.
Through his first 19 games of the season, he batted .303 and drove in eight runs. The 6-foot-6, 205-pounder was drafted by the Washington Nationals in the 15th round in 2014.
“I low key it that Ryan is my son,” Ripken Jr. said, “and let him enjoy the experience and challenges he will face. I am proud of him.”
Asked if he signed autographs at FirstEnergy Park, Ripken Jr. said, “I try not to create a stir. That’s part of being low key.”