Sports Stars Align for Maryland Firm

Cal Ripken Jr., top, offered to be Maroon PR's first client. The connection helped the firm snag Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer and Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis.
Cal Ripken Jr., top, offered to be Maroon PR's first client. The connection helped the firm snag Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer and Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis. (By Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post )
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By Thomas Heath
Sunday, July 12, 2009

Maroon PR President John Maroon is set to board a commercial jet this morning to fly to St. Louis, where he will tend to his firm's most important customer -- former Baltimore Oriole Cal Ripken Jr. -- during Major League Baseball's annual All-Star Game week.

Maroon won't say that the Hall of Fame shortstop is his most important client. But I can say it. Call up the Maroon PR Web site, and Cal's company, Ripken Baseball, is front and center.

For today's visit, Maroon plans to make sure Ripken doesn't run into any surprises as he runs a youth clinic for State Farm Insurance, which pays Ripken to link his name to the company. Maroon will make sure Ripken knows which media outlets are present. Which reporters will be asking questions. Whether there will be a request for a live television interview.

"He has provided a service to me that I badly needed," Ripken said. "How you manage [the media] can either allow you to keep going undistracted or be labeled. John has a good understanding of both sides, what the needs of the media are and . . . the value of public relations."

Keeping one of the most respected people in baseball happy is smart business. The Ripken connection helped reel in Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer (a former Oriole) and Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis. Maroon even landed a contract from a local real estate business that was attending a meeting of the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation.

The Ripken association bestows other benefits, too. When Maroon PR ran the grand opening for the Sullivan's Steakhouse in Baltimore, Maroon got Ripken to appear at the event. The restaurant donated $10,000 to the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation.

"Having Cal Ripken as a client when we opened our doors was a huge benefit and gave us instant credibility," said Maroon, 44, who runs the business from an office in Howard County. "Cal Ripken is a big brand name, so by osmosis I garner some of the value of that, whether it's deserved or not. But we have also grown from just having Cal and the Babe Ruth Museum and four of us to 20 clients and a team of nine."

The company recently split into two divisions, with one serving sports clients and the other everyone else.

The key to getting good publicity for a client is knowing exactly who does what in the media world. Maroon and his staff scour dozens of magazines and newspapers and follow TV in search of the best fit between a reporter's beat and the client's story. One employee bought several months' worth of Men's Journal looking for the right person to write a story about Moyer.

"If you pitch the wrong journalist, you will never hear from them again," Maroon said.

Maroon did public relations work for the Orioles and the Redskins before starting off on his own. He founded the company in 2006 with his wife, Carolyn, and two full-timers, and a $150,000 line of credit with a bank.

Ripken, for whom he had worked, offered to be the first client.

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