It was not an ordinary night at Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium.
The park on Friday still had the look and feel of a miniature Oriole Park at Camden Yards, however, there were some noticeable differences.
When Ironbird fans strolled through the stadium gates, they were welcomed into the home of the Aberdeen “Steamed Crabs” instead of the name created in honor of the owner, Cal Ripken Jr.. Stadium staff members were adorned with t-shirts with the same name ironed on the front. The merchandise shop was re-christened “The Crab Shack”.
The jumbotron that towers over the right centerfield wall featured an animated crab sporting an Aberdeen cap while clutching a wooden mallet with the state flag waiving in the background. Even the uniforms were different, trading out the usual orange and black for white pinstripes with the new logo.
For one night, the team adopted a new mascot “Kalvin the Krab” and with it came a fun diversion from a late-summer push toward the playoffs.
“It’s wonderful,” said David Forrester, who traveled from New Jersey to see the game with his son, William. “To me, this is what minor league baseball is all about, just keeping relevant and tying to the local teams and local traditions. I don’t think it gets better than that on a baseball night in the middle of summer.”
On the field, the change to the Steamed Crabs moniker was not enough for the Orioles short-season class-A affiliate to break out of its recent slump. Entering the day trailing the Mahoning Valley Scappers by a game-and-a-half in the wild card and the Staten Island Yankees by two-and-a-half games in the NY-PL McNamara division standings, the IronBirds fell to the West Virginia Black Bears in a rain-shortened game, 6-3.
Overall, Aberdeen has dropped four of its last five games.
In the loss Friday, the team received key contributions from starting pitcher Cameron Ming (Four scoreless innings), catcher Ben Breazeale (1-for-3, run), and third baseman Garrett Copeland (2-for-4, RBI). Despite the loss, though, the team’s response to the alternate uniforms was overwhelming positive.
“We have a lot of different jerseys and this was a nice change,” Steamed Crabs manager Kevin Bradshaw said. “I think it was a huge hit with the fans.”
For Ming, he seemed satisfied that the jerseys were comfortable to play in.
“It was a fun night to change up the logo a little bit, get out there and have some fun,” Ming said. “As long as they fit, I’m happy”
The team had orginally announced its plans for the brief name switch on March 9, abandoning their usual name and logo for an animal also synonymous with the state. That said, “Kalvin” didn’t completely push the original logo to the side. The Ironbirds insignia sits on the left sleeve, while the Maryland flag covered the right side.
There were plenty of fun events in between innings. Several young fans participated in an “Old Bay relay”, where they raced one another while doing a crab walk. Another youngster played a game of “Whack-A-Crab” (Whack-A-Mole with crabs). Among other contests were a Crab Mallot Toss, a Crab Claw Catch, Club Level Crabbing and a (plush) crab toss from the press box.
The between innings twitter question asked those in attendance the name of the process in which a crab sheds its blue shell (molting, in case you were wondering). Several fans and the PA announcer covered their heads with crab hats as part of the festivities. The stadium also sold crab-theme items like crab cakes, crab macaroni and cheese, steamed crabs, and soft shell crab sandwiches.
The Ironbirds return back to their usual attire on Saturday night for the second of three games against the Pittsburgh Pirates short season class-A representative.