Cal Ripken likes to refer to events involving youth and baseball as a "celebration of baseball," and the former Orioles great has a lot to celebrate in Aberdeen this summer.
The Cal Ripken World Series, which starts today and runs through Aug. 21, keeps growing.
The series is affiliated with Babe Ruth League Inc., which in 1999 renamed its 12-and-under age group for the retired Orioles great, Cal Ripken, dropping the name Bambino Division. Since then, that age group has grown to more than 650,000 players. This year's third World Series features 15 teams from around the world.
For the first time, the series will be played at Cal Sr.'s Yard, across the street from Ripken Stadium, which is bounded on the east by Interstate 95. In addition, two smaller youth-sized fields, Wrigley and Memorial, will be used.
Comcast SportsNet will broadcast live the series' last three games on Aug. 20 and 21 in eight markets nationwide.
The two previous Ripken Series were played at Ripken Stadium, home of the minor league IronBirds. For those two series, the grounds crew, led by head groundskeeper Chad Olsen, tore up the 90-foot diamond and field and converted it to the 12-and-under dimensions of 60-foot base paths, 46-foot pitching distances and a portable outfield fence, 215 to 270 feet from home plate.
Afterward, the field was converted back for the minor league IronBirds of the Single-A New York/Penn League, all at a cost of more than $60,000.
"It's great that we don't have to tear up the field and then put it back together after the World Series," Ripken said. "The other scaled-down fields we now have are of the same quality [dirt and grass] as the one at Ripken Stadium. ... Using the three fields will keep the games moving and the people on the property."
Ripken said his brother Bill built the Wrigley backstop, which is strikingly similar to the one at the Cubs' park in Chicago.
"Billy is pretty handy, like Dad was, and he put up brick back there like they have at Wrigley [in Chicago] and has ivy growing," Cal Ripken said. "The theming of all the fields will come in time, like two hotels behind the right-field fence at Cal Sr.'s Yard, to take on the appearance of the warehouse at Camden."
Hotel construction is scheduled to begin next spring, he said.
Opening ceremonies at 6:30 will lead off tonight's festivities. Games tomorrow are to begin at 10 a.m., with the last starting at 8 p.m.
At 2:05 p.m., at Ripken Stadium, the AFLAC All-American High School Baseball Classic showcasing the nation's top 38 rising seniors - none from Maryland - in an East vs. West matchup that will be televised live on Fox Sports Net.
Again, the Aberdeen community has jumped in to house the out-of-town teams by acting as host families.
"It's wonderful the way Aberdeen responds, and more people are being exposed to what this all about and they fall in love with it," Ripken said.
Each team plays four games in the round robin, followed by four playoff games next Friday to determine opponents for the International championship at 1 p.m. and the U.S. championship at 3:35 p.m. Aug. 20.
The survivors play for the Ripken World Series title at 7:05 p.m. on Aug. 21.
Ripken World Series
Games played at Cal Sr.'s Yard (C), Memorial field (M) and Wrigley field (W)
Opening ceremonies, 6.30 p.m. (C) Hickory Fountain Green vs. Lexington, Ky., 8 p.m. (C)
Oahu, Hawaii vs. Willamette Valley, Ore., 10 a.m. (W) Jackson, Mo., vs. Bronx, N.Y., 11 a.m. (M) Canada vs. Australia, 6 p.m. (C) Republic of Korea vs. Dominican Republic, 8 p.m. (C)
Bronx, N.Y. vs. Lexington, Ky., 1 p.m. (W) Dominican Republic vs. Mexico, 2 p.m. (M) Hickory Fountain Green vs. Raleigh, N.C., 4 p.m. (W) Calvert County vs. Meridian, Miss., 6 p.m. (C) Marblehead, Mass., vs. Oahu, Hawaii, 8 p.m. (C)
Republic of Korea vs. Australia, 1 p.m. (M) Meridian, Miss., vs. Willamette Valley, Ore., 2 p.m. (W) Dominican Republic vs. Canada, 4 p.m. (M) Marblehead, Mass., vs. Calvert County, 5 p.m. (W) Bronx, N.Y. vs. Hickory Fountain Green, 6 p.m. (C) Raleigh, N.C. vs. Jackson, Mo., 8 p.m. (C)
Hickory Fountain Green
Willamette Valley, Ore.
Republic of Korea