Cal Ripken Jr. book signing draws major crowd

Cal Ripken Jr. appeared at the Barnes in Noble in Bel Air Monday evening to sign copies of his new book, "Wild Pitch," and the line to see the Baseball Hall of Famer wrapped from the children's section in the back of the store, all the way out the front door and along the sidewalk out front.

The store had a cache of 400 of the books on hand, and by 6:30 p.m., 90 minutes after the book signing began, a Barnes and Noble employee announced to those waiting at the back of the line that there were only 27 copies left.

In the very back of the line at 6:30 p.m., patiently waiting to enter the store and escape the 35-degree temperature outside was Shirley Brockmeyer, of Hampstead, who said she would wait in line whether she could purchase a book or not.

"I probably drove the farthest to get here," Brockmeyer said. "I didn't get here until about five minutes ago, but I'm going to wait, even if I can't get one of the books. I hope I can though. I'm an Orioles fan, and I like the series of books that Cal has done."

"Wild Pitch" is the third title in the Cal Ripken Jr.'s All-Stars series, the first two being "Super Sized Slugger" and "Hothead." All three books were written by Ripken with the help of Baltimore Sun sports writer Kevin Cowherd.

Ripken first appeared at Barnes and Noble on Monday at 5 p.m., dressed as usual in black gym pants and a black polo shirt. By the time of his arrival, the people near the front of the line had been waiting for most of the afternoon.

"I first got here at about 2 [p.m.]," Joseph Kraft, who was the first person to have his book signed by Ripken. "I picked up the new book and took my place in line."

Kraft, a Bel Air resident, was accompanied by his son, George, a fourth-grader.

"These books that Cal does, they're perfect for my boys," Kraft said. "George and his brother, who's in second grade, both play baseball. They both loved the first two books. I'm sure they'll like this one too. I've been an Orioles fan my whole life, too, through thick and thin."

After having their books signed, the attendees who wished to have their photographs taken with Ripken were directed to line up next to a small stage that had been set up in the store's children's section. Ripken would take breaks from signing about every 10 minutes or so to pose for photos with his fans.

Next to the photo area was a table where Cowherd sat, signing books throughout the event.

Opting to have their book signed and get a photo with Ripken was Ben Moehlenkamp, of Aberdeen, who attended the signing with his mother, Jamie.

"I came by at noon to get a copy of the book," Jamie Moehlenkamp said. "Then I came back with Ben to meet Cal. This is the first time [Ben] has met him in-person. Cal's books have been really good bedtime reading for Ben and his brother. They both enjoy them a lot."

Decked out in an Aberdeen IronBirds jersey and cap at Monday's signing was a fan who has had the opportunity to meet Ripken on several occasions, Greg Mullinix, of Perry Hall. Mullinix, who had his copy of "Wild Pitch" signed, but skipped the photo session, has worked at Ripken Stadium the last six IronBirds' seasons, passing out programs to fans as they enter the stadium's front gate.

"I got here at 3:30 [p.m.] for the signing," Mullinix said. "I've read the first two books of [the series]. It's been a while since I did, but they were really good. I'll read this one when I get home."

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