Settled on gymnasium bleachers, their notebooks steadied on knees and pens at the ready, area baseball coaches talked shop with Cal Ripken, clinging to his every word in hopes of better teaching America's pastime to its youth.
"Just people talking about baseball," said Ripken, who along with his brother Bill served as instructors for 90 youth baseball coaches from the Washington area on Sunday at Forest Park High School.
Since his retirement from the Baltimore Orioles after the 2001 season, Cal Ripken's mission has been to promote baseball among youth worldwide. He and his brother run Ripken Baseball, whose program includes camps and clinics such as Sunday's daylong affair.
For the coaches, whose players ranged in age from elementary to high school, it was an informative day. The clinic, which was held in the gym at Forest Park, covered all aspects of the game, from gripping a baseball to taking the throw during a steal attempt.
But for all the knowledge passed around, possibly the most exciting moment came when Cal Ripken passed some gloves around -- the ones he used during a 21-year career at shortstop and third base.
"I had to stick my hand in his glove," said George Marino, 39, of Woodbridge, who coaches in a coach-pitch league for 7- to 9-year-olds. "I played infield in high school. I wanted to see how he broke his glove in, how loose it was."
Marino, who got to toss the ball with Ripken during a drill, was impressed by more than his glove or his picture-perfect fielding demonstrations.
"It's refreshing with today's athletes to hear a guy talk about kids," Marino said. "That gets lost in youth sports."
It was a day for coaches, but the focus should be on the kids, Ripken said, who made it clear instruction should be kept simple and that adults should avoid projecting professional ambitions on children.
"They're taking the life and fun out of the game," he said. "Let's try to create an environment that will be less pressurized. Keep it even-keeled as a coach. . . . Let the kids play the game. Return the game to them."
Ripken's approach was appreciated.
"He's relaxed and willing to teach," said Art Buckner, 58, of Dale City. "At this level, wanting to work with kids and coaches? I'm sure he makes money but he gives out so much information. I enjoyed the heck out of this."
Buckner, a retired Bell Atlantic engineer, started coaching youth baseball in 1975 in Dale City. He's coached at Godwin Middle School for eight seasons.
At the clinic, Buckner ran into Jamie Stehlin, whom he coached in Dale City. Stehlin, 41, is back coaching youth in his home area after playing at Kent State University and later coaching varsity teams at W.T. Woodson and South Lakes.
Stehlin said that Cal Ripken's commitment to children was apparent in the terminology he recommended coaches use and his emphasis on making the game educational.
It reminded him of his own positive experiences as a young player, Stehlin said, and why he's giving back.