After retiring from baseball, Ryan Ripken embracing new career path in sports media

14 July 2023

For Ryan Ripken, conviction has replaced uncertainty.

Such a statement might seem strange for the son of Orioles legend Cal Ripken Jr. who turned stardom at Gilman into seven seasons in the minor league system of the Washington Nationals and Orioles. But that link to his famous father raised the bar to seemingly impossible heights for Ripken, who is in the early stages of carving out a career in sports media.

“It’s weird. Maybe for the longest time playing, I was used to constantly realizing that I was not going to meet certain people’s expectations,” he said. “I had self doubt. With this, I don’t doubt myself. I have confidence that I can be really good at this.”

Less than a year after retiring from baseball, Ripken, who turns 30 on July 26, is all-in as an analyst. His contractual obligations include being part of a rotation for the Baltimore Baseball Tonight pregame show on 105.7 The FAN, appearing as an analyst for Fox 45 and participating in Fox 45′s weekly Orioles podcast called Rip & Roc.

Ripken also hosts and produces his own podcast called “Off scRIPt with Rip” and has started to dabble in producing The Ryan Ripken show on YouTube.

Still involved in helping at baseball camps and giving private lessons while commuting from his home in Washington, Ripken said he is driven by a desire to improve his skills as a host and interviewer.

“When you go on 105.7 or Fox, you’re talking about being an analyst, and I wanted to work on my interview skills,” he said. “I wanted to show off my personality more, and that’s what I think the podcast can do, and I can also tell other people’s stories the way that they want to talk about it. So it’s been a very rewarding process in that sense, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that you have to put a lot of time and effort into it, especially when it’s kind of been a one-man show.”

Ripken’s passion is not surprising to Brent Harris. As a part-time sports and news host at WBAL, Harris has worked with Ripken at the radio station and described him as eager to learn.

“I would see him on the weekends, and we would talk a little bit, and he would always ask me, ‘Do you have any advice? What do you think of how I did today?’” said Harris, who is a sports journalism professor at Towson. “Ultimately, taking that step to owning your own brand is what he has done. It’s easy to say, ‘OK, I’m here. So are you going to hire me at, say, WBAL?’ That to me is probably the easy route. But for him, he’s decided that he’s going to work hard and build his own brand, which is not an easy thing to do. So kudos to him for understanding that you can’t just wake up and live off of your own experiences and show up and do the job.”

Ripken edits his own material, which can take a couple hours or a few days. A self-taught producer, he admitted that he has had his fair share of mistakes such as the time he accidentally lost a file of his interview with former Orioles and St. Paul’s pitcher Steve Johnson.

“I was like, ‘Man, that stinks,’” he said. “But you live, and you learn. That’s a part of life, but that definitely set me back.”

In an industry where the more popular sports media personalities go viral for providing “hot takes,” Ripken said his goal is to avoid spouting off controversial judgements. Instead, he said he wants to take viewers and listeners behind the lens into what factors contribute to players’ struggles and successes.

“My goal is, how can I give people an inside scoop of what really can go on with players instead of just throwing out there, ‘This guy is bad, and that guy is bad,’ and trying to make a scene,” he said. “If you watch the debate shows, they can be entertaining, but some of them get blown out of proportion. So I want to try to take out some of that noise and try to bring what I think is an authenticity to my analysis.”

Harris said strong opinions are more important to the audience than “hot takes.” He said Ripken’s last name gives him a certain air of authority, but also adds a degree of difficulty in terms of creating his own brand.

“In a lot of ways, people will look at Ryan Ripken as an extension of what Cal was, and he’s not,” Harris said. “He’s not the same person, he’s had his own experiences, and he’s done his own stuff. So I do think there’s some pressure that comes with carrying the Ripken name when it comes to talking about baseball.”

Ripken said he seeks feedback from everyone, including his father, mother Kelly and uncle Billy. He said his mother critiques his body language, stance and tone from his TV appearances and listens to every podcast. But Ripken said he craves interaction from the audience.

“I do really love to hear what the listeners think because I want to know what they want to hear,” he said. “If you think I’m not portraying something in a way that you like or enjoy, I want to know, and it doesn’t hurt my feelings. I think that’s the biggest thing now. It’s one thing to be tough-skinned, which is something you definitely need to be involved in the media world. But another thing is listening to your audience.”

Ripken said predecessors such as former New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan and former NFL wide receiver Nate Burleson, who branched out from sports to co-host morning shows on ABC and CBS, respectively, have motivated him to expand his horizons to subjects other than sports. He knows the path won’t be easy, but he is undeterred.

“I’m excited for the challenge, and I do believe that I can become very successful at this,” he said. “So now that I’ve gone into this, whatever I’ve learned from my playing career, I’m going to try to just keep evolving, and that’s something that I owe to myself, and hopefully, this can be the start of a journey in this industry that can last a long time.”


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