Cal and Bill Ripken look to 2015 in Aberdeen and beyond

Special to The Aegis
Cal Ripken looking forward to 2015 in Aberdeen

For the Ripkens and the Aberdeen IronBirds, the 2015 season promises to celebrate the past while looking to the future.

Cal Ripken Jr., chairman and founder of Ripken Baseball, and his younger brother, Bill Ripken, co-chairman/executive vice president, said the IronBirds will host the New York-Penn League All-Star Game on Aug. 18 at Ripken Stadium. In addition, Cal is going to spend more time at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen this season as the IronBirds celebrate the 20th anniversary of his breaking Lou Gehrig's major league record of 2,130 consecutive games played.

Cal and Bill Ripken discussed those and other developments while speaking to the media during Monday night's Hot Stove dinner at Ripken Stadium.

They said they will also keep pushing ahead with building Youth Development Parks, which comes through the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, named after their father. When the project started five years ago, the goal was to build 50 of these parks by 2015. They'll be passing that goal by the end of this year and continuing to help children.

The IronBirds will officially celebrate Cal's setting the 2,131 record when they host Lowell on Sept. 2 at 7:05 p.m. Cal broke Gehrig's record with the Orioles on Sept. 6, 1995 and went on to play 2,632 consecutive games.

This summer will involve telling the story of how Cal got to 2,131.

"We're doing some interesting things [here]," Cal Ripken said. "I know I'm planning to be up here a whole lot more this summer. It's fun to be in and around what's going on up here. I'm looking forward to it."

The IronBirds will host the All-Star Game for the second time. They last did it nine years ago with more than 6,900 fans attending.

Bill Ripken, also speaking to the media Monday, said the all-star game should be interesting to watch because of the number of talented players in it who could go on to bigger things sooner rather than later.

"If you think about the way guys go through the minor leagues now to get to the big league level, you could see somebody in this ballpark [then] next year you could see them at the big league level," he said. "[They might] be impacting a team the way these guys seem to fly through their systems."

One project that's also clearly important to the Ripken brothers is the continued development of the youth parks they've built across the country.

They identify a community which could benefit from one – which costs about $1 million – and work with them on raising money. The foundation will contribute money, eventually build the park and stay involved afterward.

They've built several fields in the Baltimore area, including the one that opened last year in Aberdeen and was named in honor of their mother, Vi Ripken. Cal Ripken said they simply enjoy that they're about to have a positive impact on kids in so many places.

"We're building fields all across the country," he said. "We were satisfied being a regional foundation that can help just as many kids as we could touch. Now, because of our fields and because of the models in which we're doing those, we're all over the place. That's pretty gratifying to open a new field and impact kids in another part of the country."

The brothers also are optimistic about what their former team could do in 2015. After winning the American League East last year, the Orioles come into the new season facing a bunch of questions because of the losses of key players Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis and Andrew Miller.

Bill Ripken said the combination of pitching and hitting the Orioles will have this year has impressed him. Cal Ripken agreed the Orioles should be strong once more.

"They've got five [starting pitchers] that can throw a 3.5 ERA up there," Bill Ripken said. "I think with the club, and the way they swing the bats…I don't see anybody in the East better than that."

"They're a playoff-caliber team," Cal Ripken said, "and I think that's the only prediction that you really can make going in because the season dictates how the year's going to go."

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