Another season has come and gone, quite successfully, for the Aberdeen IronBirds, the low Class A, short season affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.
While there has been much off-the-field uncertainty in the past year about the IronBirds, Aberdeen’s home team fared as well as ever on the field. Despite missing the playoffs, again, the IronBirds were in the hunt until almost the very end, getting eliminated on the day of the last home game, which was rained out, with three games left. Their final record was 41-34.
The winning record was no small feat for the IronBirds, which have only had seven non-losing seasons in their history. They’ve also only been to the New York-Penn League playoffs one year – 2013, when they lost in the first round.
Cal Ripken Jr., not far removed from his Hall of Fame career with the Orioles, bought the team and moved it to his Aberdeen hometown for the start of the 2002 season. Aberdeen and the state built a wonderful new ballpark - named Ripken Stadium after he paid $1 million for naming rights.
In the past year, long-term concerns and questions have continued about the stadium’s strain on Aberdeen’s city budget at the same time that the future of the team has been pondered as Ripken has said the franchise is for sale – to the right buyer. That bombshell came just days after it was announced that the Cal Ripken World Series would be leaving Aberdeen, where it had been held on Cal Senior’s Yard and the rest of the Ripken Experience Aberdeen for 13 years.
While that is wholly unrelated to the Aberdeen IronBirds, people have long connected the Cal Ripken Jr. brand with the IronBirds, Ripken Stadium, the Cal Ripken World Series and the Ripken youth baseball academy in Aberdeen as all part of the Ripken Experience Aberdeen. Dramatic changes to any one of Ripken’s Aberdeen properties has long been guaranteed to cause a certain amount of angst in the community.
Fortunately, this year’s Aberdeen IronBirds did much to allay the worries. The team was competitive in the standings. The fan experience at the games was a good as ever. And, most importantly, Aberdeen’s team was winning, making the 2017 season a winner all around.