For the first 20 years of his life, Cal Ripken Jr. prepared tirelessly to be a Baltimore Oriole.

Growing up as the son of a minor league coach in Aberdeen, he loved hearing his dad tell newly drafted players, “Welcome to the greatest organization in baseball.” He could think of nothing else he wanted to do with his life, nowhere more he wanted to be.

The 23 years since he retired from his playing days have been a kind of preparation, too. Owning the Aberdeen IronBirds and making friends in the business world, Ripken long harbored hopes that he could have a day like Thursday, when he took a step onstage as one of the owners of the Orioles.

Although Ripken is one of the most celebrated players in franchise history, the 63-year-old has never lost the sense of pride that came with representing the team. He felt it again as he donned a black jacket with the bird logo on his chest.

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“Many times in life, it’s a matter of timing,” Ripken said. “And the timing feels really good right now to come back and be able to contribute.”

The Orioles introduced their new ownership, led by billionaire and philanthropist David Rubenstein, hours before first pitch on opening day. Rubenstein, Gov. Wes Moore, Mayor Brandon Scott, Sen. Ben Cardin and other state power players gathered in the B&O Warehouse to celebrate what the franchise has called a new chapter of its history.

Ripken authored one of the most iconic memories at Camden Yards on the side of that warehouse, where the number 2,131 hung when he passed Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games streak. It was the brightest moment in a Hall of Fame career that still sees him at the top of many hallowed team records, including games played, hits and home runs.

Cal Ripken Jr. shakes hands with Commissioner Bud Selig during the Oct. 6, 2001, ceremony to honor Ripken's 3001st and final game. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

In Ripken, the ownership group has one of the most influential figures of the Orioles’ past, making the acquisition of the team from the Angelos family feel more like an in-house transfer of power. From his father’s history in the organization to Cal and his brother Billy playing for the Orioles, there is no family more associated with the franchise.

When a reporter asked Ripken if becoming an owner completes his legacy with the franchise, he seemed bemused by the idea.

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“I don’t know. Completes my legacy?” he said. “I kind of look at life as a lot of learning experiences. And there’s a lot of value in the last 20 years learning business. I felt like I kinda came to the table late. But having that experience there puts you in a better position to contribute to what’s happening now.”

Ripken said he’s been friends with Rubenstein, a Baltimore native, for a while. They had discussed owning the Orioles but largely as a hypothetical.

“Sometimes we talked about that being a possibility, but it happened pretty quickly, as all you guys know,” Ripken said. “It came together really fast.”

Rubenstein’s group takes the reins at a significant juncture. Though the Orioles have amassed talent in the top farm system, they have yet to sign any of their exciting young players to long-term contract extensions. Ripken will find out what life is like on the management side of the negotiating table.

“There’s going to be some challenges, some decisions to be made,” he said. “But it’s a great problem to have when you’ve assembled all the talent that [general manager] Mike Elias has assembled. We have a bunch of choices. So I look forward to some of those discussions.”

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But Ripken also downplayed the influence he’ll exert on the team. Although he has experience owning the IronBirds and extensive knowledge of the game that mean he could be used as “a sounding board,” he echoed Rubenstein’s plaudits of Elias’ job performance entering his sixth season.

“Mike and company has really done a fantastic job of restoring baseball,” he said. “They’ve loaded the farm system, got a lot of talent at the major league level. There’s nothing that needs to be fixed, as far as I’m concerned, but if I can help in some small way, I’m glad to be available as a resource.”

Baltimore Orioles legend and Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., waves to the crowd at Camden Yards on Thursday, March 28, 2024. The Baltimore Orioles won their first game of the season, 11-3, against the Angels. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Ripken will be around. He’s always lived in Maryland, and in recent years he’s come to more games, drawn by the team’s rising tide of success. He sat in a seat behind home plate for the home opener.

Now he owns a piece of the franchise he grew up loving, which his father used to call the best in baseball.

“I plan on being here a lot more now,” he said. “I’m proud of the Orioles. They’re looked upon all around the country as a really good baseball organization, so I’m really proud of that.”