It's year No. 12 overall and the ninth in Aberdeen for the Cal Ripken World Series which begins today (Friday) at the Ripken Baseball Academy in Aberdeen.
Game action gets under way Saturday with the first of five straight days of pool play for the 16 participating teams, 10 from within the United States and six from other countries.
In addition to action on the field, the academy will be full of fan-friendly attractions, special events, theme nights and food.
"It will be more active and festive," said Amy Venuto, executive director, professional baseball for Ripken Baseball. "We're very excited about the 2011 Cal Ripken World Series. We've added a lot of specials, entertainment and theme nights to make it the best world series to date. The caliber of teams are fantastic this year and we encourage everybody to come out to this free event and share the experience."
All 16 teams were to go through team orientation Thursday with today starting the full world series schedule. A coaches breakfast starts off the day, while the players enjoy an hour and a half of swimming at the Aberdeen Pool off Paradise Road.
All teams will have photo shoots beginning at 5 p.m. and the annual picnic at the pavilion on the complex will begin at 5:15 p.m. Host families will also receive meals, along with Babe Ruth League officials under the white tent.
The series parade, including all teams and some local participants, will begin at 6:25 p.m. At 6:40 p.m. all teams will begin making their way into Ripken Stadium where teams will be introduced.
The opening ceremonies will begin at 7 p.m. in Cal Sr.'s Yard and the highly anticipated skills competitions will begin promptly at 7:30 p.m. The Aberdeen IronBirds will be home against the Williamsport Crosscutters and post-game fireworks will light up the sky at the conclusion of the IronBirds game.
Saturday marks the beginning of competition and the first theme night for the 5 and 8 p.m games in Cal Sr.'s Yard. Saturday's theme is Rock and Roll Night and there will also be Kiss the Pig between the 5 and 8 p.m. games.
Pool play continues Sunday and theme night is American County Fair, while Monday night is Justin Bieber Night.
Tuesday brings on a new event, Splash Day, which runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the turf square. The event, which features large splash inflatables, is for kids up to 15 and at a cost of $5 per child.
Wednesday the series will celebrate the 60th anniversary of Babe Ruth League, with a theme of 'A Walk Through the Years,' focusing on each decade of the 60 years. Following the 8 p.m. match-up of Mexico and Japan, an International Dance Extravaganza will take over the field with dancing to such songs as Macarenas, Cha Cha Slide and others.
The series is scheduled to take Thursday off, but inclement weather could force some games to be played Thursday. U.S. and International semifinals will fill out the day Friday and movie night, likely in Ripken Stadium, will begin at the conclusion of the 8 p.m. U.S. semifinal.
Saturday features the U.S. and International Championships in the afternoon, while more dancing can be done between 6 and 9 p.m., with the All-Star Community Dance Party on Eutaw Street by the hotels, complete with deejay.
The world championship will be played Sunday, Aug. 21, at 2 p.m. All games and tickets to the final are free, but individuals must register for tickets at
http://crws.ripkenbaseball.com/free-tickets/ for the championship game.
Bel Air, the host team, and Maryland State Champion Charles County, highlight the field of domestic teams.
The remainder of U.S. teams are Oahu, Hawaii, Pacific Southwest champions; Kennewick, Wash., Pacific Northwest champions; Hudson, N.H., New England champions; Tri Counties, Texas, Southwest champions; Southeastern Lexington, Ky., Ohio Valley champions; Waite Park, Minn., Midwest Plains champions; Clifton Park, N.Y., Mid-Atlantic champions; and West Raleigh, N.C., Southeast champions.
International teams are Canada, Dominican Republic, Republic of Korea, Australia, Mexico and Japan.
Pool play games begin at noon and games follow at 2:30, 5 and 8 p.m. on Cal Sr.'s Yard, Fenway Park and Wrigley Field.