Group photo with Director and Cal Ripken in the Lower Level

Sports Diplomacy Comes to Life with U.S. Sports Envoy Cal Ripken, Jr.

Sports Diplomacy Comes to Life with U.S. Sports Envoy Cal Ripken, Jr. 1024 496

On September 18, 2019 the National Museum of American Diplomacy (NMAD) partnered with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) to host a conversation with Baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. and Foreign Service Officer Joel Ehrendriech on the power of baseball to promote mutual understanding.

NMAD Director Mary Kane and ECA Assistant Secretary Marie Royce opened the event by welcoming Ripken and describing ECA’s use of sports diplomacy to build bridges between Americans and people around the world at the grassroots level. Kane then moderated a special dialogue with Ripken and Ehrendriech highlighting powerful impact of sports diplomacy at home and abroad.

Cal Ripken's jersey and bat, signed

Mr. Ripken’s signed jersey and bat illustrate the goodwill that is generated through sports diplomacy.This goodwill can pave the way for efforts in finding common ground in other areas of nationalinterest. Gift of Cal Ripkin, Jr., to the National Museum of American Diplomacy

Ripken shared his experiences as a Sports Diplomacy Envoy in China, Nicaragua, Japan, and the Czech Republic. He told the over 150 guests how baseball serves as an “icebreaker” for him to “connect directly with kids.” Not only does he lead baseball drills and clinics, Ripken shows young people how the skills and teamwork needed on the field apply to school and life off of the field. Ripken underscored that “sports take down walls and barriers” to open up communication and connectivity regardless of one’s different walks of life.

Ehrendriech provided an on-the-ground perspective on how he has used baseball during his overseas assignments to connect with the country’s citizens and government officials. Notably, while stationed in Tokyo, Japan, Ehrendreich organized a baseball game between the American embassy and the Japanese parliament, played at the Tokyo Dome in March 2006. The U.S. team was managed by former Texas Rangers owner and U.S. Ambassador to Japan Tom Schieffer. The Japanese team was managed by Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, later to become Japan’s prime minister. The game ended with a diplomatic 15-15 tie. 

Ehrendriech donated a number of sports diplomacy artifacts to the museum which were on display at the event along with Ripken’s artifacts.