Vi Ripken Field dedication

Members of the Ripken Family stand with young people from the Boys and Girls Club of Aberdeen and club officials during Monday afternoon's dedication of Vi Ripken Field at Ollie's Bargain Outel Park. (MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF, Baltimore Sun Media Group / August 11, 2014)

Children on Aberdeen's east side will have a new place to play, thanks to a gleaming new baseball field unveiled Monday by the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation.

The artificial turf baseball diamond across from the Boys & Girls Club of Aberdeen is the first park among the Ripken family's and the foundation's many community projects to be named after family matriarch Vi Ripken.

The field was officially christened Vi Ripken Field at Ollie's Bargain Outlet Park during an afternoon ceremony where Cal Ripken Jr., Bill Ripken and Vi Ripken and other Ripken family members spent time with children from the Boys & Girls Club and community members.

Ollie's Bargain Outlet was a major contributor the new field, according to a foundation spokesperson, Katy Ford.

Ollie's president and CEO Mark Butler, who joined in Monday's ceremony, is also chairman of the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation.

What the organization calls a youth development park is the 25th such facility sponsored by the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, which is aiming to build 25 more nationwide, under its program of 50 parks in five years.

"It's not about competitive sports," foundation president Steve Salem told a crowd that included community and county officials. "This is about giving kids a safe place to play."

The park opening also marked the first Cal Ripken, Sr. Day, a day dedicated to service, Salem said.

The strip of Aberdeen Avenue by the park was re-named Vi Ripken Way, while a portion of East Bel Air Avenue was renamed Williams/Baldwin Boulevard, after the two original names on the field, Aberdeen Mayor Mike Bennett explained.

Bennett, who said he grew up in the neighborhood, joined others in praising the transformation of the once-patchy, nondescript field.

"This old field has never looked better, believe me," Bennett said. "What a great addition this makes to our city."

"What makes it priceless is to have it named after Vi Ripken," Bennett added, calling her a "great supporter" of the Boys & Girls Club.

Vi Ripken, for her part, was modest and gave up most of her speaking time to Cal and Bill Ripken. She did say having the park named after her was "quite an honor."

"This is all kind of dumbfounding," she told the crowd.

Cal Ripken Jr., said he went to school down just across the street from the field, a Halls Cross Roads Elementary, and talked about how he and his late father realized children in the area did not have a safe place to play.

"These fields look great, stay looking great and communities by and large embrace these areas," he said. "We could not be more proud."

Ripken also said he "could not be prouder" to have the field "named after Mom."

He cited "all the work she has done for the Boys & Girls Club and the way she has influenced us to work in the community as a kid."