The 2007 tournament came with some major changes. The Babe Ruth Major 60 format, which features 60-foot base paths and a 46-foot distance from the pitching mound to home plate, was abandoned in favor of the tournament's current Major 70 configuration, in which the base paths are 70 feet and the pitching distance is 50 feet.

The reason for the switch, explained by Ripken Baseball officials prior to the start of the 2007 tournament, was that the 12-year-old competitors, some of whom could pitch the equivalent of a 115-mph fastball from a mound 46 feet away, were throwing too hard and running to fast for the Major 60 format, and that the added distance would make the competition more even and enjoyable for those involved.

During the 2007 competition's opening-night gala, some of the players took part in a home run derby, during which a Mexican team member came through with a power exhibition that has yet to equaled six years later. Carlos Munoz, a left-handed hitting catcher, sent 18 pitches over the outfield wall of Cal Sr.'s Yard, winning the derby handily.

A week after Munoz's home run display, his team defeated Tampa, Fla., 8-0, for its third World Championship crown.

Probably the most thrilling finish of any of the tournaments held in Aberdeen came the following year, when the Jupiter, Fla. team defeated Mexico, 5-4, for the 2008 title.

Trailing, 4-3, in the bottom of the seventh inning after Mexico took a one-run lead in the top half of the inning, Jupiter sent catcher Logan Heiser to the plate with a teammate on base, and he ended the tournament by slamming a 3-1 fastball over the center field wall for a two-run, walk-off homer.

"I'd never hit a walk-off home run before," Heiser said after the game. "It really felt great. I'm kind of in shock."

Heiser, now a high school senior and still a catcher, was part of his school team's best ever season, as the Jupiter Warriors finished their 2013 campaign with a 23-5 record and advanced to the semifinals of the Florida State Championship Tournament for the first time.

A Florida squad came through with another World Championship run in 2009, as Forest Hills, Fla., edged Mexico, 7-6, in the final. Forest Hills is the last American team to take top honors.

Mexico took back the crown in 2010, beating Ocala, Fla., 7-1, in the title game.

Possibly still stinging from a 12-inning loss to Mexico in the 2008 tournament's International final, the Japanese national team finally ascended to the top in 2011, ending Mexico's run of eight division crowns. Japan went on to win its first world title that year, beating American champ, Lexington, Ky., 7-0.

The 2011 tournament, notable not just for being the end of Mexico's International Division dominance, also had one of the best youth pitching performances seen in Aberdeen, or anywhere else. Dominican Republic hurler Leudy Santana started for his team in its International Division semifinal against Mexico, and proceeded to fan 14 hitters in a complete-game no-hitter. Japan then knocked off Santana and the Dominican squad, 10-3, in the 2011 International final.

The Japanese team returns this year as a back-to-back champion, after defeating the U.S. Champion and Maryland representative from Upper Montgomery County, 17-7, in the 2012 title game, the first time a team from the tournament's home state had advanced that far.

Can Japan three-peat in 2013? Will Mexico return to glory? Can a U.S. champ win the title for the first time in four years? There will be plenty of story lines to follow as the 2013 Cal Ripken World Series unfolds over the next 10 days.