11:35 PM EDT, August 12, 2011
The Cal Ripken World Series opened for the 12th time Friday night, the ninth time in Aberdeen, with a ceremony in front of hundreds of fans from the United States and other countries at the Ripken Academy in Aberdeen.
Players, coaches, ambassadors and bat boys from all 16 teams paraded around the complex into Ripken Stadium, before returning to Cal Sr.'s Yard, where each team was introduced and each manager was awarded a participation plaque. While parading was going on, students from Chung's Martial Arts displayed board breaking moves and other forms from Tae Kwon Do. Fourteen-year-old Melanie Smith performed the national anthem.
A handful of dignitaries were on hand, including Babe Ruth League CFO Rosemary Schoellkopf, Aberdeen Mayor Mike Bennett and Vi Ripken. Schoellkopf and Bennett each addressed the crowd and Camren Exter, a played from the host team Bel Air Braves, read the Babe Ruth Sportsmanship Code.
The skills competitions then took over with running, throwing and fielding skills contested by players from each team.
Japan won the Golden Spikes, a four-man race around the bases, with Jin Matsuda, Takumi Okada, Daisuke Sowa and Ryuya Urata rounding the bases twice in 26.17 seconds.
Japan also prevailed in the Turn Two challenge. The six-man infield team converted four double plays in 25.27 seconds. Tri-Counties, Texas, was a close second in 26.33. Each team had to complete four double plays in the order of 5-4-3, 6-4-3, 4-6-3 and 3-6-1.
Between the Japan wins, Team Australia took top honors in the Bean Bob throwing contest, in which four players from a team made three throws each at a dummy 60 feet away. The team of Lachlan Allen, Matthew Beattie, Justin Burke and Dylan Ridding turned in a tremendous score of 44 to blow away the field.
Capping the night was everyone's favorite skill, the home run derby. In Cal Ripken's absence, former teammate and former Baltimore Oriole Brady Anderson wowed the crowd with a few blasts, two in particular. Twice Anderson drove balls with a wooden bat onto the roof of the hotels that serve as the warehouse in right field. Neither made it over, a disappointment to some.
Mexico's Gerareo Duarte won the derby, launching eight homers in the second round after hitting a first-round best five home runs.
The series game action gets under way Saturday with two games at noon.
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