Senior close by as Ripken acquires team

Aberdeen minor-leaguers remind Iron Man of dad


February 14, 2002|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

As he spoke on an outdoor podium in a chilling wind to formally announce the acquisition of a New York-Penn League franchise for Aberdeen yesterday, Cal Ripken reached into the past.

"I can't help but think about dad at this moment," he said of Cal Ripken Sr., the late Orioles coach, manager and farm system instructor. "His love for being in the uniform and teaching. A minor-league environment is where I grew up with 14 years of his teaching.

"There is something special about a minor-league experience. It's about community and spending time with each other."

Ripken is realizing a dream with the purchase of the Utica Blue Sox of the short-season Single-A League that plays a 76-game schedule. The opener against the Williamsport Crosscutters is scheduled June 18 in Aberdeen.

Political dignitaries and Orioles chief operating officer Joe Foss also addressed the estimated 200 people who gathered in a chilling wind for the ceremonies. The yet-unnamed team will be the seventh affiliate in the Orioles' farm system, tying the Atlanta Braves for the major-league high.

The day included a tour of 6,000-seat Ripken Stadium, which is taking form daily, and an autograph session.

Ripken Baseball also announced the selection of Pikesville native Jeff Eiseman, who has been with the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s, as the team's general manager, Aaron Moszer as his assistant and Amy Venuto as the director of sales.

Cal and his brother, Bill Ripken, stressed that the launching of the minor-league team is merely "phase one" of the grand plan for the $25 million complex, which is being built with a combination of funds from Cal Ripken, the state, Harford County and the city of Aberdeen.

The organization is attempting to lure USA Baseball (Olympic program) to the site from Arizona and future endeavors will include the Ripken World Series for youth and a baseball academy.

"My main goal is to spread the word about baseball," said Cal Ripken, who has entered into a co-op agreement with the Wilmington Blue Rocks of the Single-A Carolina League to conduct joint activities.

He said throwing himself into the project full bore "is my way of transitioning from one career to another. So far, there have been no withdrawal symptons [about not playing]. There are all sorts of creative programming planned."

Bill Ripken said it is his role "to do whatever it takes to make this successful. Like the last six years of my career, I'm the utility man. He [Cal] is the man. He will be hands-on, overseeing what the staff does."

Bill Ripken has been the front man so far, talking to local civic groups and businesses about support for the team.

"It's good," he said of the response. "We have 28 club boxes and they're all gone."

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