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LIFE FOR Kelly Ripken is never as predictable as three outs in
an inning. While her husband, Cal Jr., just spent a record 2,131
straight days at the office, Kelly's schedule is not planned in
advance like some 162-game season--and her life is much more
spontaneous. "Every day is a day of decisions," she says with a
sigh. "I don't have a nine-to-five job, but I'm busy every
second. There is never a day of calm."

If she were ever to play baseball, Kelly, 36, would make a fine
utility player. Take one recent day in which she filled her many
roles--household manager, mom, foundation president, baseball
wife--and it's easy to see why. The Ripkens are having their
Reisterstown, Md., home remodeled, and on this morning she meets
with architects, builders, designers, lighting coordinators,
everybody, it seems, but Martha Stewart. There's also her daily
meeting with the small staff that maintains the Ripkens' house
and 25 acres of property. In the afternoon Kelly has to pick up
her five-year-old daughter, Rachel, at camp; take her
two-year-old son, Ryan, to the doctor; and get her 35-year-old
husband on his way to the ballpark.

At 4 p.m. Kelly arrives at the office of The Tufton Group, the
marketing firm started by the Ripkens to handle their public
relations and the Kelly and Cal Ripken Jr. Foundation. As
president of the charity foundation, Kelly reads through several
hundred letters a year from groups seeking assistance--"That's
my bedtime reading," she says--and then decides how the
foundation's money is to be distributed. On this day two
reporters have come to the Tufton office to interview Kelly.
During the Streak, she has endured endless "What do you think
Cal thinks about..." questions. A University of Maryland
graduate with a communications major, Kelly handles such
inquiries with ease. As she says, "My life is my major."

That night she takes the kids to the Oriole game at Camden
Yards. "I don't go to very many games," says Kelly, who has been
married to Cal almost eight years. "The kids don't want to keep
still for that long." You get the sense that neither does their
mother. "I'm not a fan of baseball," she says. "It [the
marriage] wouldn't work if I was."

True story: One day late in 1983, after the Orioles had won the
World Series and Cal Jr. had been named the American League MVP,
Kelly's mother, Joan Geer, approached the star shortstop in a
Baltimore restaurant and asked him to sign a napkin for her
daughter. His note read: "To Kelly. If you look anything like
your mother, I'm sorry I missed you." Geer called her daughter
with the news that she had just met Cal Jr., and Kelly's
response was, "Who is he? It rings no bells." A month or so
later, in January 1984, Kelly was at a restaurant where Cal Jr.
was making an appearance. She tapped him on the shoulder and
said, "Thanks for being so nice to my mom." Cal Jr. looked at
her and said, "Is your name Kelly?" They were married on Nov.
13, 1987, and Kelly still has the napkin.

"I am the only person on the face of this earth that Cal doesn't
talk baseball with," Kelly says. "I usually find out what Cal
did the next day while I'm waiting on the car-pool line at
Rachel's school."

Kelly leaves the Oriole game after a few innings to get the
children home to bed. When she is asked if Cal Jr. appreciates
this daily balancing act that is her life, Kelly says, "Cal is
not a man of many words when it comes to expressing feelings.
His quiet actions speak louder than words. I know he knows it's
been tough. He appreciates that he doesn't have to worry about
anything. At home, he knows he's covered."

And so add this to her list of roles: catcher. On any play at
home, Kelly Ripken has it covered.

--Kelly Whiteside

COLOR PHOTO: WALTER IOOSS JR. KEEPING CAL JR. & CO. AFLOAT IS A FULL-TIME JOB. [Ryan Ripken, Cal Ripken Jr., Rachel Ripken and Kelly Ripken in swimming pool]