Joplin, a city with a strong baseball history, got a visit from one of baseball’s most historic icons on Wednesday.
Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. joined dozens of volunteers with the Energizer battery company, based in St. Louis, to spend Wednesday working on a Habitat for Humanity House at 2401 S. Wall Ave.
Ripken, who said he learned some carpentry skills while working with his dad, fellow Major Leaguer Cal Ripken Sr., took some time to join the Energizer employees in the basement of the home, driving nails and moving wood.
Ripken said he was here as a partner with Energizer and Habitat for Humanity to help in any way he could.
It was a wonderful opportunity to be a baseball player to actually look at the community and turn some of that influence into a positive way,” Ripken said. “I’ve always enjoyed that, even from the smallest levels when you are in some small towns, you have a chance to use your platform do good. The lesson I’ve learned is that you need willing partners, and Energizer couldn’t be more of a willing partner and Habitat is a fantastic partner. Sure you can accomplish by yourself, but when you put people together, put these groups together, these partners together, you can do really significant things.”
Cal Ripken Jr. is most famous as baseball’s Iron man, breaking Lou Gehrig’s streak of 2,130 consecutive games played without missing one. He went on to set the all time record of 2,632 games played in a row before voluntarily ending the streak on Sept. 20, 1998.
He retired from baseball in October 2001 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007 with the third highest percentage of votes in the history of the Hall.
Scott Clayton, director of the Joplin Habitat for Humanity, said having someone like Cal Ripken Jr. visit a build site was a great way to draw attention to Habitat’s good works.
“When Cal comes here, there are obviously people who want to come out and meet Cal Ripken Jr.,” Clayton said. “He’s the Iron Man of baseball. He broke Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games streak, he’s a tremendous role model as well the way he played every day and also everything else he does, not just with Energizer, he has a foundation and he’s a part of many, many different things, so Cal’s out there working every day and he’s a tremendous presence and it’s a pleasure meeting him and I’m glad he’s here.”
Ripken repeatedly talked about the “positive energy,” and “positive change,” he saw in Joplin as well as other places he’s seen that were devastated by natural disaster, including tsunami-devastated Japan.
“It’s amazing, the human spirit, Ripken said. “You would think that it could be knocked down and you couldn’t recover from that, but right away, the optimism, the positive attitude, the positive impact that people have, people willing to come to help others, then you start to see positive things happen and it is a tribute to the human spirit.”
Tara Corno and Cass Harris, both of St. Louis and both employees of Energizer, said they were happy to be helping in Joplin and amazed by the extent of the damage left by the May 22, 2011 Joplin tornado.
“It’s been close to a year and it’s amazing that it’s still this devastated, but it’s great to see the work that’s going on,” Corno said. “I know Habitat has a few houses that are a bit closer to being completed, so it’s great to see the progress happening. It’s pretty devastating, and I’m pretty happy to see that it’s coming together slowly but surely.”
Harris said she and the other employees were happy to have Ripken as their spokesman.
“He’s a great spokesperson for energizer and it’s great to have him here,” Corno said. “He brings lot of attention to a very worthy cause so we’re very happy to work with him. Habitat does amazing work don’t they? They’ve been around for so long, they’ve been doing so many more build, more and more throughout the year and this is the first year we’ve partnered with them and we just think they’re great.”