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Oriole fans enjoy an evening with Cal Ripken Jr. in Abingdon

Contact Reporterdaanderson@baltsun.com

Abingdon resident Jeff Carlson fulfilled a long-time dream Tuesday night when he and his 11-year-old son, Alex, met Baltimore Orioles great Cal Ripken Jr.

"It was fascinating," Carlson said. "It was a dream, amazing to go see him in person."

Ripken was at the Abingdon Library to promote his latest children's book and to meet fans.

Carlson, who is a school resource officer with the Harford County Sheriff's Office, wore a bright orange collared shirt with a Sheriff's Office logo. He and his son got copies of "The Closer," which Ripken wrote with co-author and former Baltimore Sun sports columnist Kevin Cowherd, signed by the Hall-of-Famer, and they posed for pictures with him.

Carlson noted Ripken, a Harford County native, "seemed really good with the kids that were here today; that's what counts."

"I thought he was really nice, and it felt good to meet the real Cal Ripken," Alex Carlson said.

The book "The Closer" is the sixth entry in the All-Stars series of books written by Cowherd and Ripken. The series chronicles the exploits of different youth baseball players and their challenges with growing up, on and off the field.

The latest book is about Danny Connolly, a backup pitcher who must play in the shadow of his older brother, Joey, the team's star pitcher.

Ripken related the story to his relationship with his younger brother, Bill, who also played for the Orioles and had a respectable career in Major League Baseball, but did not achieve the same level of stardom as Cal.

Cal Ripken, who played baseball at Aberdeen High School and was drafted by the Orioles in the early 1980s, is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. He's also known as the "Iron Man" for breaking the consecutive games played record held by Lou Gehrig, known as the Iron Horse.

"It's based on the relationship he had with Billy," Mary Hastler, Harford County Public Library director, said of the book.

Ripken and Cowherd have visited the Abingdon Library to promote each book in the All-Stars series. Each time, they have been greeted by a large crowd that turns into a long line of people wanting to meet the Iron Man.

Tuesday's event was no exception. More than 200 people – a sellout crowd – attended, according to Hastler. Patrons could purchase one ticket apiece for $50 and get one copy of the book and a ticket voucher for an upcoming Aberdeen IronBirds game.

For $90, two people could get tickets, plus two books and two IronBirds vouchers. Proceeds go to the Harford County Public Library Foundation.

"It's always good to see Cal in [Harford] County," Hastler said.

Bill Street, 39, of Bel Air, noted his 5-and-a-half-year-old son, Gavin, could relate to Ripken's stories of sibling rivalry.

"He knows that well, because he has a 15-year-old brother and a 12-year-old sister," Street said."

Street and his son were decked out in Orioles gear, and the visit with Ripken whetted their appetite for "baseball season and warm weather."

"I was a big Cal Ripken fan growing up; my kids love baseball, especially this little guy," Street said of his son.

Isaac Scrocca, 8, of Bel Air, attended with his mother, Tara, and 5-year-old brother Mason.

Isaac said he asked Ripken about the hardest pitcher he ever batted against. Ripken replied that pitcher was Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan.

Isaac is too young to have seen Ripken play when he was on the Orioles, but he has been able to see his performances online in YouTube video clips. He also rattled off Ripken's hitting and fielding accomplishments and his multiple awards.

Isaac said he likes present-day Orioles stars Chris Davis and Adam Jones, but "my favorite player of all time on the Orioles is Cal."

He also made this year's roster of the Hickory Hornets travel team, which represented Harford County during the summer Cal Ripken World Series, when 12-year-old players from all over the world compete in Aberdeen.

"Baseball is my favorite sport, and I'm really dedicated to it," Isaac said.

Isaac and his family visited the Abingdon Library last Marc, when Ripken and Cowherd discussed the fifth book in the All-Stars series, "Out at Home," and met fans.

"I think that this is a great thing for the kids that he's so accessible, that he comes back to his roots and comes back to Harford County," Tara Scrocca said about Ripken.

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