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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration Officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Today's guests: Cal Ripken, Jr. and Brian Besanceney, Special Assistant to the President and White House Tee-Ball Organizer

Cal Ripken Jr.
Cal Ripken Jr.
Brian Besanceney
Brian Besanceney
June 20, 2003

Welcome to today's Ask the White House. We are pleased to have White House Tee-Ball Commissioner Cal Ripken and Special Assistant to the President Brian Besanceney here today to discuss the third season of Tee Ball at the White House

Cal Ripken, Jr.
Hello all. Glad to be here today and looking forward to being at the White House on Sunday for tee-ball.

Leslie, from Denver Colorado writes:
What skill should be taught first to the 5-6 year old ball player?

And in your infinite amount of spare time, can you help us major league fans return baseball to a balanced schedule?

Cal Ripken, Jr.
To me the five and six year olds -- you are really just learning the game. It is a fun environment, nothing too long and hitting -- believe it or not -- is one of the easier things to learn at that age. Hitting off a tee and learning which way to run the bases are the basic guidelines and should really be the goal.

As for the balanced schedule question, I like the balanced schedule. It seems like the early part of the season when you are playing the same teams over and over again -- I see the logic because you are trying to create excitement within the division. From a fan's perspective, new teams coming in all the time would be more appealing to me. I don't know how to change it-- any advice?

Bryan, from Drexel Hill, PA writes:
Cal, How would you compare your position as Commissioner of Tee-ball to that of the Commissioner of Baseball, Bud Selig? How is having to report to the Commander-in-Chief?

Cal Ripken, Jr.
I can't make a comparison between the two positions. As Commissioner of Tee-ball on the South lawn, to me it is all about celebrating baseball and kids. And I enjoy doing both.

Raeford, from Las Vegas, Nevada writes:
Thanks for being a role model for me and my kids, but how did you manage to be at every game?

Cal Ripken, Jr.
The streak was really born out of an approach given to me by my Dad. A very honest and simple approach. My job was to come to the ballpark ready to play. If the manager wanted me to play, I did. I was lucky to stay away from injuries and it helped that I established myself as a regular player early on. Basically it was just coming to the ballpark ready to play.

Darryl, from Birmingham, Alabama writes:
Mr. Cal Ripken Jr, Do you recommend Tee-Ball summer Camps?

Cal Ripken, Jr.
I recommend any good fun exposure to the sport. I would be careful playing baseball year round as a young person. I advocate trying a variety of sports because different sports challenge you athletically in different ways; you learn balance, explosiveness and other things. To develop your athleticism you need to try a lot of sports. If approached the right away, tee-ball camps can be a good way to introduce baseball.

Andres, from Georgia writes:
What's your advice to all-star athletes as role models for young children?

Cal Ripken, Jr.
I personally wouldn't want to be dragged in to the debate. I would like the athletes to know that they have influence over the kids. Just by realizing that, it is a big responsibility, you should take the responsibility in a positive way. You have to think back to your own childhood. Just remind yourself that kids are watching while you are playing.

Claudia, from North Carolina writes:
My kids want to know: What is it like to attend a White House tee-ball game? How is similar or different from the teeball games they participate in?

Cal Ripken, Jr.
There is an added level of excitment because you are at the White House. It is a very similar experience to a normal child's tee-ball experience. There is a great joy when a child hits the ball and has a little success. I think it is the parents and the coaches who celebrate the successes. It might be exactly like the White House experience. Somebody from your community would just have to play the role of the President.

Brian Besanceney, Tee-Ball organizer:
The rules are modified slightly from regular tee-ball games. We don't keep score and every child gets to bat in the first inning and the game is only one inning long.

Mike, from Columbia, SC writes:
Cal, As T-Ball Commissioner, how do you teach kids about respect for the game and other players when much of sports today is treated like a business?

Cal Ripken, Jr.
Make sure that you don't treat your games or your kids like a business. Make sure you think like a kid and create an environment which is fun. That is easier said than done, but most of the time the celebration of just the game, absent the pressure and the demanding parents and coaches will give you a love for the game.

Rebecca, from California writes:
Do your children play tee-ball? Have they ever played at the White House? Would you want your children to follow in your footsteps and become professional baseball player, if they had the opportunity?

Cal Ripken, Jr.
I have a boy and girl. My girl is 13 and my boy is 9. My daughter enjoys other sports. My boy, on the other hand loves baseball. He has the bug. As for them following in my footsteps, I as a parent, would like to support what their interests are. Much like my parents supported me. If it is baseball for Ryan, I would like to help him. If it happens to be something else he is interested in or Rachel is interested in, I will help them out with that.

Darryl, from Atlanta, Georgia writes:
Mr. Cal Ripken,

How is it to hang out with the President of the United States and still get to do the BEST hobby in the world?

Cal Ripken, Jr.
It is really cool to go to the White House period. But to be in a baseball environment where kids are enjoying themselves, that is special.

Meghan, from Washington, DC writes:
Cal, I've been a big fan of yours since my young days growing up in California. I've always admired your involvement with the community and now with Tee-Ball at the White House. I'm fairly new to the DC area, any ideas on how to get involved in the community here? Thanks again for all the wonderful years in Baltimore!

Cal Ripken, Jr.
I always believe that everyone should take a special interest in the community -- whether it be time, money or influence. There are many great organizations that can help you with that.

Brian B -- Tee-ball organizer:
If you are interested in getting involved in your community, you might want to visit It is a web site sponsored by the President's USA FreedomCorps initiative and includes a search engine which should help you learn more about service opportunities in your community.

Stanley, from Seattle writes:
Have you played catch with the President? If so, is he any good?

Cal Ripken, Jr.
Yes, I have. And yes, it looks like he played at a pretty high level before.

George, from Virginia writes:
What was your favorite non-home stadium?

Cal Ripken, Jr.
I always enjoyed playing in Fenway Park. I liked the short left field fence.

Andres, from Georgia writes:
What do you think about the allegations against Sammy Sosa?

Cal Ripken, Jr.
I choose to believe that this is a one-time thing with Sammy. It is conceivable to me that he was messing around with the bat in batting practice and it got mixed up in the game. It is unfortunate because a mistake like that has a lot of ramifications. First and foremost it places a level of doubt on you as a person and a player. This will be a burden that Sammy has to live with.

Sammy has been a great ambassador for baseball. I know him and I like him. I think he'll get through this mistake.

Madeline, from Arlington VA writes:
When do you think little leaguers should start pitching?

Cal Ripken, Jr.
Right around the age of 8 years old they have enough control to start throwing to batters. They should be monitored; the amount of pitches they throw. You need to throw to get your arm strong, but you don't need to overdo it. It isn't a bad thing but as long as the number of pitches and innings are being controlled with common sense in mind.

Cheri, from Spokane, Washington writes:
I had never played sports as a child, however, I now have four children, and would like to know: How do you think sports effected your character growing up?

Cal Ripken, Jr.
I think sports -- introducing sports -- concept of team work, responsibility, working together, I think there are great lessons learned in being part of team -- no matter what sport. Again, working together and also the individual responsibilities of you doing your individual job -- practice, preparation, all of these are important to sports. It doesn't matter if you are the most gifted child, people can enjoy the values that sports gives and I would highly recommend exposing kids to sports.

Jennifer, from Texas writes:
Ok Cal . . what's the President REALLY like?

Cal Ripken, Jr.
I find him to be a normal person. I think the best compliment you can make to anyone is that he is normal, down to earth and grounded. Thanks for letting me talk a little baseball. Can't wait for Sunday's game.

Ruthann, from Marmora,NJ writes:
Dear Cal, How are the teams chosen to play Teeball at the White House? And are you and the President there for every game? Thank you, Ruthann

Brian Besanceney
Teams are selected by Little League Baseball, who work with us to organize the games. Typically we have a theme for every game and we ask Little League to identify the teams that would best match the theme. In this case, we asked Little League to identify teams located on military bases because we are honoring military families on Sunday's game. If you are interested in nominating a team, you can go to Little League's web site at

Tyler, from Dacula, Georgia writes:
Could you tell me about your program with the White House? I'm 5 and would like to attend the TEE-BALL sessions?


Brian Besanceney
Hi Tyler,

We have a great program for every game with entertainment, music and a picnic afterwards. You can check out the specifics at: Also, join us this Sunday at 4pm as we will webcast the entire game live.

Dianna, from Houston, Texas writes:
What does the W stand for?

Brian Besanceney
It stands for Walker.

Rebecca, from Washington writes:
Are tee-ball games scheduled for EVERY Sunday? Do you schedule rain dates?

Brian Besanceney
We typically schedule three games each summer. Obviously the President is pretty busy these days, so we don't have games every weekend. You can probably hear me knocking on wood right now, but we have not yet had to reschedule a game due to rain. I don't think the President would go for a retractable dome on the South Lawn, but if it gets any rainier in Washington this year, we may have to consider it.

Cal Ripken, Jr.
Thanks for letting me participate today and talk some baseball. See you Sunday, Cal.

Brian B, Tee-Ball Organizer:
We are looking forward to Sunday's game. We are crossing our fingers for good weather and we hope you will all be able to see it on