With his first youth World Series at Aberdeen in the books, Cal Ripken is looking to take the next step toward establishing a tradition that will highlight his hometown.
"Williamsport is to Little League what we hope Aberdeen will be to Cal Ripken baseball," said the former Orioles great, who is eagerly awaiting the start of the Cal Ripken 12-and-under World Series at Ripken Stadium.
The fifth Cal Ripken World Series begins play with the first of five games at 11 a.m. tomorrow.
Babe Ruth League Inc. renamed its largest age division (5-12-year-olds) from Bambino to Cal Ripken Baseball in 1999 and has seen an average growth of 7 percent each year thereafter.
Since the first two Cal Ripken World Series in 2000-01 in Illinois, followed by the third in Indiana and the permanent site of Aberdeen last year, the 12-and-under program has grown to more than 600,000 players.
Fifteen teams, including ones from Australia, Canada, the Dominican Republic, defending champion Mexico and South Korea, started arriving Tuesday.
Churchville is the host team and Harford County representative, and the Maryland state champion is St. Mary's County.
For the series to be played at Ripken Stadium once again, the task of transforming the well-manicured field to meet Ripken baseball dimensions began right after last Friday's AFLAC High School Classic.
The diamond had to be scaled down from 90-foot bases to 60 feet, and the pitching distance of 60 feet, 6 inches reduced to 46 feet. Also, temporary backstop and outfield fence was installed.
"It's a little heartbreaking to see such a beautiful field go under renovation from a big guy's field to a little guy's field, but I'm very excited about the World Series," said Ripken.
"Last year was our first year here and I thought it was very successful. It was received very well by the area. Like anything else, you learn and make some improvements to make it an even better World Series."
It took more than 1,000 man hours and nearly $60,000 to downsize the field. Some 25,000 square feet of sod had to be removed and replaced along with 200 tons of infield clay and 150 tons of sand, according to Bill Ripken, the executive vice president of Ripken Baseball.
All the hard work is more than worth it to the Ripkens and crew.
"Actually seeing the kids enjoy the stadium is the fun part of it," said Cal Ripken.
The greater Aberdeen community has once again responded with vigor in supporting the World Series. The host family program is vital to the success of the endeavor, as 14 teams consisting of 12-15 players need host families to house and feed them and provide transportation to games and practices.
Most of the host families from last year signed up again.
A downtown Parade and Banquet of Champions kicked things off last night, with opening ceremonies starting tonight at 6.30 at Ripken Stadium.
Six-inning games will be played at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. each day from tomorrow through Thursday.
Next Friday, the semifinals for the U.S. and International championship games will be played, with the winners playing for their respective titles on Aug. 21.
The U.S. and International champs meet for the World Series title at 4 p.m. on Aug. 22 at Ripken Stadium and broadcast live on Fox Sports Net.
At a glance
What: Cal Ripken World Series for 12-and-under teams, affiliated with Babe Ruth League Inc.
When: Tomorrow through Aug. 22
Where: Ripken Stadium, Aberdeen
Admission: Tournament pass $20, adult day pass $5, children's day pass $3
Information: Call 410-297-9292 or visit www.ripkenbaseball.com
Lexington, Ky., vs. Montgomery, N.J., 11 a.m.
South Korea vs. Mexico, 1 p.m.
Greenwich, Conn., vs. Kennewick, Wash., 3 p.m.
Australia vs. Dominican Republic, 6 p.m.
Raleigh, N.C., vs. Churchville, 8 p.m.