The Cal Ripken Major 70 12-year-old World Championship, which returns to Aberdeen this weekend, had its beginnings 14 years ago, half a country away and under a different set of rules than what players and fans will experience in the 2013 renewal of what has become a Harford County institution.
This year is the 11th time the world championship has taken place at the Ripken Baseball Complex in Aberdeen, featuring 16 teams from across the U.S. and around the world.
The players, ages 11 and 12, can be expected to leave everything they have on the field if they want to make it into the tournament's highlight reel. Many of the games over the years have been chock full of excitement and remarkable plays.
The Cal Ripken World Series starts tonight (Friday) when the Harford County host team, the Hickory Hornets, plays the Mid-Atlantic champion, from Piedmont, Del., at 8 p.m. in Cal Sr.'s Yard.
The skills competition, a highlight of the series, will be conducted on Friday, as well, with preliminaries from 2-4 p.m. and the finals from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Cal Sr.'s Yard and Nationals Park. The competition includes a home run derby, "turn two" double play execution, "golden spikes" baserunning and outfield relay throwing.
In all, 41 games are scheduled over the course of the 10-day tournament, culminating with the world championship game on Sunday, Aug. 18.
For most games, no tickets are required for spectators, as no admission is charged. Free tickets, however, are required for the games contested on Championship Weekend, Aug. 17-18. They can be secured at http://www.ripkenbaseball.com/world_series.
In addition to baseball, other entertainment is planned throughout the Ripken Series:
• Players from the series teams will participate in a parade in downtown Aberdeen beginning at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 10.
• A free teen dance party is planned for 9 p.m. to midnight Saturday, Aug. 10 on the grass near the parking lot at the stadium complex.
• Sunday, Aug. 11, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. is billed as Splash Day, during which fans can take advantage of inflatable water slides and other water themed attractions with a $5 pass.
• A carnival midway featuring about 20 rides is open from 5 p.m. until the end of the day's final game Aug. 12- 17 and on Aug. 18 from noon to 6 p.m.
• An International Dance Extravaganza event is planned for 10 p.m. to midnight Aug. 14 after the evening's final game.
• Friday, Aug. 16, is billed as Taste of Maryland night and features a sampling of local dinner fare from 5 to 7 p.m. in the third base white tent at the stadium complex; cost is $15 per person.
• Karla Davis, from NBC's "The Voice" is to perform a concert after the final game Aug. 18; the game starts at 2 p.m. so the concert is expected to begin around 4:30 p.m.
The tournament, played under the auspices of Babe Ruth Baseball international, was known originally as the Cal Ripken Major 60 12-year-old World Series and had its inaugural run in 2000 in Mattoon, Ill. Three years later, the competition came to its current home in Aberdeen.
The 2003 competition in Aberdeen, played entirely in Ripken Stadium because the neighboring you baseball complex hadn't been built yet, saw the Hilo, Hawaii squad take the U.S. title, while Mexico began one of the more impressive streaks the series has witnessed, winning the first of eight straight International Division titles. The Mexican national squad's run did not end until 2011, when the Japanese team took top the International competition's top spot.
The Mexico team took the 2003 World Championship game in short order, beating the Hawaiian squad easily, 13-2, for the first of its four overall titles.
Following Mexico's repeat World Championship game victory over West Raleigh, N.C. in 2004, two squads from a remote American destination took control of the tournament, as Hawaiian teams from Honolulu and Hilo bested Mexico for the title, 1-0 and 5-2, respectively, the next two years.