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Ripken, Martinez travel to Nicaragua

I had a chance to catch up yesterday with John Maroon of Maroon PR, the agency representing Ripken Baseball. He just spent five days in Nicaragua with Cal Ripken Jr. and former O’s teammate Dennis Martinez, conducting baseball clinics for youth coaches and kids throughout the country and donating hundreds of pieces of equipment on their way.

Assisted by representatives from Ripken Baseball and the U.S. Embassy, Ripken and Martinez, a native of Nicaragua, traveled to Managua and Granada last week and worked with 300 children and 60 youth coaches. Their final clinic in Leon, scheduled for Monday, was canceled due to civil unrest in the area.

Maroon said the group was not in any danger — in fact, they spent Monday sight-seeing — but the clinic was canceled after the mayor of Leon said the kids would not be able to make it through the protestors and blocked roadways to attend.

Maroon also said the media coverage in the country of their trip was everywhere and they made the front page of regional newspapers nearly every day. But for once, it wasn’t Ripken the media and public were fawning over.

“Dennis Martinez is like Elvis down there,” Maroon said. “They couldn’t get enough of him. It was like sure, they knew who Cal was, but Dennis is a real national hero to them.”

Maroon said the group was also struck by the need for school supplies and funding. Before they left they were contacted by a Fallston High School teacher who sent them 200 pounds of school supplies, which they donated to two schools while they were there.

Ripken and Martinez plan to return to the country to further develop baseball programs. Ripken was named American Public Diplomacy Envoy for the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in 2007. His next trip with the department is planned for Africa in 2009.

LIZ FARMER, Business Writer