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GREEN BAY, Wis. — Perseverance. That is what baseball’s iron man, former Baltimore Oriole Cal Ripken, Jr., said propelled him to play in 2,632 consecutive games.


Ripken shared stories from his 21-year career with more than 450 people at the Dairy Strong Conference, held Jan. 17-18 at the KI Convention Center in Green Bay.

“People always ask me how I played in so many games and what the secret was to my longevity and it was about the power of perseverance,” said Ripken, a member of the Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame, who broke Lou Gehrig’s “unbreakable” streak of 2,130 consecutive games played in 1995.

A question from fellow Hall of Famer Derek Jeter about his longevity promoted Ripken to look deeper within and think more about what had made him so durable. The result was “Just Show Up: And Other Enduring Values from Baseball’s Iron Man,” Ripken’s book about his career and perseverance.

“The No. 1 thing is having the right approach and right attitude. My job was to play baseball and I was fortunate that multiple coaches felt I was worthy to be in the lineup game after game,” he said. “Just get out there and do what you need to do.”

Ripken did more than show up for 2,130 straight games. He won the Rookie of the Year award in 1981 and led the Baltimore Orioles during a World Series championship season in 1983. Ripken also received the American League Most Valuable Player award twice.

Ripken said his strong will to succeed also fueled his career. He credited his mom for teaching him how to channel negative energy into something positive.

“If I was mad about something, she told me instead of throwing punches to go for a run, do some push-ups,” he said. “Another key is being passionate about what you do. Loving what you do carries you through the tough times. One year, we lost 21 games in a row, which was tough. But we kept at it and I learned how to be a better teammate.”

Being competitive was another key to Ripken’s long streak. “It’s not about being competitive against other teams — that’s important. It is also important to compete against yourself. Are you better than you were last week, yesterday?” he said. “You have to be willing to work on your weaknesses and get better.”

Ripken said being consistent in the small things will make you valuable to your team.

“You can’t always hit the homerun or make the winning catch, but it is what you do in-between that matters. There’s value in your daily contributions,” he said. “Having a strong conviction is also important. Stand up for what you believe in.”

During his long career, Ripken learned the importance of controlling what you can and can’t. “People said I didn’t have to change much — I had the same team, the same spot on the field … but I had nine managers during my career. That’s a lot of change.”

When it came to the media — something many players struggle with — Ripken went out to talk to reporters even if he did not feel like it. “I wanted to make sure my words were what was out there and not let the media or other people tell my story,” he said.

A life-long milk drinker, Ripken recalled his first marketing deal was with the Mid-Atlantic Milk Marketing Board.

“It was a radio ad. I always drank milk and felt it was a good fit,” said Ripken, who continued to promote dairy throughout his career including a national campaign with a “milk mustache” on his face. “It’s great being in a room full of dairy farmers.”

This year’s Dairy Strong conference brought more than 400 attendees, representing over 280,000 cows, and industry professionals to the KI Convention Center.