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Across the floor sits the trampoline that has been set up this summer for Rachel, especially, to use. According to her mother, Rachel is "a model-dancer-actress," and she's particularly adept on the trampoline.
And how about you, Rip?
"I'm O.K.," he says.
He pulls off his shoes, hops on the trampoline and starts bouncing. Two thousand ninety consecutive games, 41 away from the record, and there he is, jumping around like a seventh-grader in phys-ed class. He demonstrates how to land on the stomach and bounce back to a standing position. He does the same thing landing on his back. He does four swivel-hip turns. He does several flips from his knees.
"I can do regular flips, but I'm not doing them now," he says. "You can get hurt on this thing, you know. I landed on my shoulder once in the off-season and said, 'Whoa!'"
Ripken is nothing if not consistent, even in his approach to something as simple as a home trampoline. Family lore has it that Cal wouldn't get on the trampoline until he had watched his wife perform on it a few times. Then he started practicing by himself. The first time he tried it in front of anyone, he pretended he had never been on it. "Right," said Kelly with a smile. "He'd probably had 25 hours of practice."
Ripken's need to be prepared borders on the obsessive. He uses an indoor batting cage at Camden Yards to hit, run and throw in total solitude before batting practice begins on the field. When he walks on the field for pregame stretching, "I'm ready to play," he says.
THE IRON MAN
On the night of July 25, in a 4--3 win over Texas, Ripken fouled three balls off his foot. San Francisco third baseman Matt Williams, a pretty tough guy, broke a bone when he fouled a ball off his foot in June. Ripken, of course, says he felt no pain.
"He never even limped," says Flanagan. "He gets optical contusions. You know: He looks like he's gotten hurt, but he hasn't. I don't think there's any blood in him."