Festival names Cal Ripken Jr. as sports marshal

Cal Ripken Jr.

WINCHESTER – Record-busting baseball star Cal Ripken Jr. will be the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival’s 2016 sports marshal after years of being on the festival’s wish list.

Festival president Jim Douglas announced Ripken at a Friday press conference alongside Michael Partlow, president of sponsoring company Partlow Insurance.

“I think when we pull the drape off this poster, you’ll agree with me that this man is ‘Unforgettable,'” Douglas said, tying the announcement to the festival’s theme this year.

Ripken played 21 seasons as shortstop and third baseman for the Baltimore Orioles from 1981 to 2001, after which his number 8 was retired.

As “The Iron Man,” he currently holds the record for most consecutive games played in the major league with a 2,632-game streak, surpassing Lou Gehrig’s 2,130-game streak in 1995. At the landmark Sep. 6, 1995 game against the California Angels, Ripken received a 22-minute standing ovation.

His career batting average is .276, with 3,184 hits, 431 home runs and 1,695 RBI. Ripken holds a trove of awards – he was named American League MVP twice, MLB All-Star Game MVP twice and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Kay Bolliger, co-chair of the celebrity committee and former festival president, said the festival has tried to include Ripken for anywhere from 10 to 15 years.

“We feel that he just represents such integrity and is such a positive role model for everyone,” she said.

As sports marshal, Ripken will speak at the Sports Breakfast on April 30, attend private functions and take part in the Grand Feature Parade. Bolliger said he would only be in town on Saturday.

Besides Ripken’s credentials as an athlete, Bolliger said his charitable efforts over the years made him an extremely desirable figure for sports marshal. Ripken has made donations and efforts toward children’s causes, research on Lou Gehrig’s disease and helped to found outreach organization Athletes for Hope in 2007.

“It’s just unbelievable – not only his outstanding athletic ability, he’s broken so many records and awards, but also … the fact that he really cares for people and he uses being known to help people,” Bolliger said.

As part of the announcement, Douglas said that the ticket purchasing system is currently down, and hopeful breakfast attendees should look to purchase admission on Monday.

Learn more about the festival and purchase tickets at http://thebloom.com/.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com