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Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011

Ripken to make return to Japan


Baltimore — Hall of Fame infielder Cal Ripken Jr. will embark next week on a nine-day mission through Japan as a sports diplomat on behalf of the State Department.

Ripken and former Baltimore Orioles teammate Brady Anderson are scheduled to lead baseball and softball clinics in Tokyo, Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture, and Kyoto. They also will travel to Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, a city recovering from the March earthquake and tsunami.

The trip will run from Tuesday to Nov. 16.

"We communicate through baseball," Ripken said. "Japan loves their baseball, maybe equally as much or more than we do. It's a fabric of their country in many ways, and in times of disaster or tragedy or when you're a little down, sometimes sports can be a distraction . . . "

This will be Ripken's third trip as a Public Diplomacy Envoy. He traveled to China in 2007 and to Nicaragua in 2008. A 2008 trip to South Africa was scrapped because of scheduling issues.

Ripken previously visited Japan to play in All-Star games pitting major leaguers against Japanese teams.

"I enjoyed those trips and their love of baseball," Ripken said. "I loved meeting (Japanese slugger) Sadaharu Oh. They have a rich history of their own baseball, and I love being around it."

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