Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. has stayed quite busy since retiring as a player. He works in broadcasting and youth baseball, and one of his partnerships is with Transitions Optical, which helps youngsters who need glasses get them. He has conducted baseball clinics, which include eye-testing. For kids, while a vision problem can be an issue in sports, it is even more serious in the classroom because it hamper learning.
ThePostGame: When you talk to current players, do they ever bring up eyesight as an issue, or do you ever suggest to them if they're struggling that they might have a problem with their vision?
CAL RIPKEN, JR.: The interesting part is if you talk to any player that's struggling, he'll say, 'I need to go get my eyes checked.' It is interesting as a baseball player looking back -- I have light blue eyes -- and my blue eyes were affected by glare all of the time. So there are all kinds of conditions that change, and I think the technology that's out there now would really give you an opportunity to see in all conditions.
What I feel most good about is not really advising or talking to pro players about their eyesight, but talking to kids. I'm in front of kids all the time, and there was a survey stat that bothered me, that one out of every four kids had some undiagnosed eye issue, and that kind of blew me away."
TPG: As a former Oriole, what is your opinion of Manny Machado as a player? He's coming off a big injury, but have you watched him and what do you like about his game, and what do you think he needs to improve on?
RIPKEN: He's going to improve naturally because he's young, but Manny Machado is one of the most exciting players. You always talk about Bryce Harper and you always talk about Mike Trout, and deservingly so -- they're especially talented players. But so is Manny Machado. He's a guy with a long frame and a cannon for an arm that really helps him defensively. He really adapted wonderfully to third base last year -- he was developed as a shortstop. It would be fun to see him at some point at shortstop. Offensively, he's going to get a little stronger, he's going to learn the league a little bit better, and he has the potential to hit 20 to 25 home runs a year and play stellar defense. He made a lot of highlight reel plays last year, and he made them look easy."
TPG: Would you say you follow the Orioles more than other teams, or do you like to watch all baseball equally?
RIPKEN: Well, I was an Oriole. I played 21 years for the same team. I still live in Baltimore, so yeah, it would be a safe assumption that I watch the Orioles a little more closely than other teams. The Nationals are down the street, and it's easy to watch them. They’re an interesting and exciting team to watch as well. My job as an analyst for TBS comes into play at the end of the year, so I have to keep a general knowledge about what goes on and really start to focus on the playoff-caliber teams in the months of August and September.
TPG: The Nationals had a bit of a setback last season. The Orioles were almost there but not quite. What do you expect from those two teams this season?
RIPKEN: “Two really good, playoff-caliber teams. Expectations are high, and I think rightfully so for the Nationals. They have a good, strong pitching staff. They have a young nucleus of everyday players. Last year, they had some difficulty scoring runs at times. I don’t think that'll be necessarily the issue this year. The Orioles made a bunch of moves -- they bolstered their depth and pitching staff -- they have some experiments to look at with some of the guys they've brought aboard. But Buck Showalter has done a fantastic job at getting the Orioles in a good baseball direction. So I think both teams are playoff-caliber teams, but I think that’s the best you can say at this time of year, is that they have a chance.
TPG: There's been a lot of talk lately, especially with Jason Collins and Michael Sam coming out, of gay athletes in the professional sports community. How close do you think MLB is to seeing an openly gay player, and would that be something that’s accepted?
RIPKEN: I don't know how close anyone is to coming out, per se, but we live in a society today where it wouldn’t affect me one bit if I was a teammate. You’re looking at the players, and everyone is coming together from different backgrounds, and to me, the important part is what you're doing as a teammate.