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Hall of Famers score in real world, too

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Steroids come to mind. So does the image of gun-toting escorts, barroom brawls, drunk driving and domestic abuse.

That's not to mention lawsuits or allegations of killing dogs.

Today's professional athletes often have a rather unsavory glow around them.

Then you consider Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn.

Individually, they stand out as two of the best ever to play the game of baseball. Together, they are making a sizable contribution to society as role models for young people, and reminders to the rest of us what we ought to be striving for.

Even without Hall-of-Fame credentials, Ripken and Gwynn stand out in our time as role models.

They each demonstrated that in their induction speeches to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Ripken distinguished himself as not just a great player, but one that was willing to set aside emotional disturbances, minor injuries and a tired body to play 2,632 consecutive games. That statistic is meaningless unless you realize that only seven players over the past 50 years have played more than 700 games in a row.

Ripken downplayed that achievement, but not his commitment.

"I always looked at it as just showing up for work every day," he told 75,000 people Aug. 29 at the induction, suggesting that his feat is duplicated every day by teachers, police officers, mothers, fathers, business people and others.

Ripken and Gwynn shared an unusual workplace. Most of us don't have thousands of people watching our every move at work and few of us have their workday's production posted in the morning paper.

But, as top athletes, hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people closely inspected their work on a daily basis.

"My father always said, 'If you work hard, good things will happen,'" Gwynn says.

His own worth ethic is unchallenged. He studied every facet of the game to make himself better and found himself in the Hall of Fame because of it. He didn't have to work that hard to get by, but he wanted more and that showed in his dedication.

Gwynn and Ripken both understand that baseball is just baseball. They understand that they are role models as baseball players, as well as members of society.

Gwynn has chosen to pass on his baseball and life wisdom as a college coach at San Diego State University. He understands that teaching baseball is teaching life lessons, too. He knows that what he teaches college students today probably will wind up more often affecting them in the workplace and their personal lives than on the baseball field.

Ripken says he has taken all he has learned in baseball and life and is applying it to his new career of helping kids achieve success and appreciate sports.

"Sport can play a big role in teaching values and principles," Ripken says. "It can be a huge developmental tool for life. Just think, teamwork, leadership, work ethic and trust are all part of the game and are also all factors in how we make the most of our lives.

"So, an essential part of the job of every player, and of all people for that matter, is to help the young people of today learn these lessons so they can live better lives tomorrow."

Ripken and Gwynn are role models for the ages. Let's not forget their thoughts.
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