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Ravens fans take over Ripken Stadium for charity softball game

BY BRYNA ZUMER, bzumer@theaegis.com

5:37 PM EDT, June 3, 2012

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Aberdeen's Ripken Stadium was packed with a different kind of sports fan Sunday afternoon, as the stands turned into a sea of purple Joe Flacco, Torrey Smith and Lardarius Webb jerseys.

The baseball stadium brought in thousands of Baltimore Ravens fans for the third annual Lardarius Webb Charity Softball Game, which benefits the Boys and Girls Club of Park Heights in Baltimore.

The area's football lovers, as well as softball fans, hoped to get up close and personal with some of their favorite Ravens players, or just to see Michael Oher or Ray Rice try their hand at swinging a bat.

"We were curious," Suzy Vovak of Abingdon, who was out with Greg Vovak, said before the game. "I am wondering if it's going to be funny or serious."

The Vovaks were wearing all kinds of sports gear – "We're Ravens, Orioles, IronBirds [fans,]" they explained – and intrigued by the charity game.

"I wanted to see the Ravens play a different sport," Greg Vovak said, sounding confident in their prowess on the baseball field.

"They are obviously athletic, to be football players," he said. "I am curious to see some home runs."

The Ravens seemed to be having a good time during batting practice, which was, despite their fans' presence, a little spotty.

Tandon Doss, for one, took a handful of swings before his bat finally connected with the ball.

One young fan, 10-year-old Jenna Anderson, wondered if it was a sign of things to come.

"They are swinging at everything, so I think the game is going to be somewhat short," she observed.

Jenna's sister, 15-year-old Delaney Anderson, said she plays softball and had brought her family out to the game after seeing a sign for it in White Marsh Mall.

Delaney, wearing a Ravens jersey and some beads, was busy snapping pictures of the team while her parents watched.

"It was close to home," their mother, Andie Anderson, explained about why they came out, noting the day was also beautiful.

"I hope they make a lot money," she added about the charity.

Murray Correll, of Forest Hill, said he brought his 11-year-old son Cory in hopes of an autograph.

"We came out to see all the players close up, and watch them try to hit a softball," Correll said. "[Cory] brought his football and a Sharpie."

He also was optimistic about the Ravens' performance.

"Some of them are going to surprise some people," Correll said. "They are athletic, so I think they are going to do better than people think."

He was proven right in some respects as the game started. Joe Flacco got to second base during his first time up at bat, and ran home during the next hit, drawing a big cheer from the crowd.

A fourth-grade student from Pimlico Elementary/Middle School threw out the first pitch.

Aberdeen Mayor Mike Bennett, who was enjoying the game from the stadium concourse, pointed out it was the first big chance for the stadium to show off its new in-house concession stands, which are being operated by a subsidiary of Ripken Baseball.

The new food service includes spots like the Conrad's Crabs and Seafood deck and The Charred Rib, with barbecue and ribs, launched by the Ripken brothers to coincide with the IronBirds' 10th anniversary season.

Bennett said the concession service had just taken on a lot of interns, and the charity game was a good way to practice before the baseball season starts.

Lines for the concession items grew fairly long as game time got closer, with at least one of the stands running out of fountain drinks shortly after the game started.

Some complaints were heard from patrons calling the wait "brutal" or unfair, but the lines died down somewhat after the game started and fans generally seemed happy.

For most of them, it was a nice day out with family or friends and a chance to see their favorite Ravens in a new venue.

"It's my birthday present," Rachel Plunkett, who came from Silver Spring with family, explained about the game.

Like many others, she was also hoping the Ravens stayed safe ahead of their real season.

"If any of them get injured, I would be really upset," she said.