This year's Cal Ripken 12-and-under World Series, the eighth overall and fifth in Aberdeen, will be the first played with 70-foot base paths and 50 feet between the rubber and home plate.
In previous Ripken World Series, the games were played with 60-foot base paths and a 46-foot pitching distance.
Cal Ripken Jr.'s proposal of going to the longer distances received an overwhelmingly favorable response from the Babe Ruth leagues and commissioners. The recently inducted Hall of Famer sees it as a "proactive step" that "will have a tremendous impact on youth baseball."
Ripken recalled his days as a 12-year-old and how 60-foot base paths were appropriate. But after being involved with 12-year-olds in recent years, he has seen kids become too big and strong for that distance.
"Watching the elite 12-year-olds on the 60-foot diamond, you realize that some fundamental truths about the game are being violated," Ripken, 46, said.
"Kids are beating out ground balls to short, balls hit into the gap are bouncing off the shorter fence and being held to singles and pitchers are throwing what would be equivalent to a 110 mph fastball in terms of reaction time. For the elite kids, and that is who is playing in the Cal Ripken World Series, we needed to expand the field a bit and make the game more fair."
Little League is played with 60-foot base paths and with the mound 46 feet from home plate. But the Continental Amateur Baseball Association has been playing with the larger dimensions for its 12-and-under league for 20 years.
The Cal Ripken division of Babe Ruth Baseball still offers the 60-foot dimensions for those not ready for the major 70-foot division.
Opening ceremonies are set for today with a picnic-banquet set for 4 p.m. for the 10 U.S. teams and six international teams, including Japan for the first time, followed by a skills competition and fireworks at Cal Sr.'s Yard.
Pool play starts tomorrow at the Ripken Youth Baseball Academy. The games run every day and culminate with a 5 p.m. final Aug. 18 at Cal Sr.'s Yard.
The first teams to play in the new 70-foot division will be the Pacific Southwest representative and the Pacific Northwest team at noon tomorrow.
Oakland, Calif., is this year's Pacific Southwest team taking the place of Hawaii, last year's champion. Oakland's opponent is Olympia, Wash.
Emmorton, the Harford County champion, will play the 8 p.m. marquee contest against Southeast Lexington, Ky., from the Ohio Valley.
Calvert County is the Maryland champion, and it opens 8 p.m. Sunday at Cal Sr.'s Yard against Olympia.
There will be seven games a day from Sunday through Wednesday with the international and U.S. playoffs to commence Thursday. The international championship game is set for 3 p.m. next Friday, followed by the U.S. final at 5 p.m.
The title game pits the U.S. winner against the international champion.
All the playoff games will be at Cal Sr.'s Yard and televised live on Versus. Admission to all games is free, but championship game tickets must be reserved through Ripken Baseball, http:--worldseries.ripkenbaseball.com.
World Series facts and figures
What: Cal Ripken 12-and-under World Series (major 70-foot division)
When: Today to Aug. 18
Where: Ripken Youth Baseball Academy and Cal Sr.'s Yard, next to Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen
Teams: 10 from the United States, including Emmorton of Harford County and Maryland champion Calvert County. Six international: Australia, Canada, Dominican Republic, Japan, Mexico and Republic of Korea.
Opening Day: Today, 4 p.m., picnic-banquet; 6 p.m., team photos; 7 p.m., opening ceremonies; 8 p.m., skills competition and home run derby; 10 p.m., fireworks. All events at Cal Sr.'s Yard.
Games: Begin tomorrow, noon to 8 p.m.; seven games a day, Sunday through Wednesday on four fields at the complex
Playoffs: Thursday through Aug. 18 (world championship at 5 p.m.)
TV: Versus (all playoff games, all live)
Admission: Free to all games, but tickets for World Series final must be reserved through Ripken Baseball (worldseries.ripkenbaseball.com) or by calling 410-297-9292.
Round-robin schedule: Games played at Cal Sr.'s Yard (C), Memorial (M), Fenway (F) and Wrigley (W). All of the fields are in the Ripken complex adjacent to Cal Sr.'s Yard.
Oakland, Calif., vs. Olympia, Wash., noon (F)
Bryant, Ark., vs. Greenwich, Conn., 2:30 (F)
Sikeston, Mo., vs. Tampa, Fla., 6 p.m. (C)
Southeast Lexington, Ky., vs. Emmorton, 8 p.m. (C)