The rain held off, and the heat kicked down 10 degrees or so Friday evening, giving everyone at the Ripken Baseball Complex a chance to enjoy the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Cal Ripken 12U Major 70 World Series, a nine-day, international tournament that has been held in Aberdeen for the past 10 years.
Beginning at 5 p.m. Friday, the 16 teams taking part in this year's competition paraded onto the field at Cal Sr.'s Yard and were introduced. The team closest to home was Harford County's championship squad, while the International Division's Australian team had traveled more than 10,000 miles to play.
Following the team introductions, a three-part skills competition took place at Cal Sr.'s Yard. The first test was a drill in which the teams had to complete four infield double plays in the shortest amount of time. In the end, the returning champion from last year's World Series – Japan - had the fastest time.
Up next was the relay game, which had two teams of three players throw the ball from the warning track to home plate, with the quickest of the two teams remaining in the competition. Japanese was again victorious, beating the other 15 squads.
In the baserunning competition, the Dominican Republic team recorded the fastest sprint from home plate, around the three bases and back home.
The home run derby, which featured a field of four players who had fought their way into the final round by winning a preliminary competition earlier in the day, began at 7:30. Canada's Josh Dobberthien hit one homer, while Jack Childers of the Pacific Northwest team from Longview, Wash. cranked four pitches over the wall. The Dominican Republic's Christopher Martinez took the lead by parking four home runs. Up next was Mexico's Juan Escarpita, who with six home runs and just one out left before being eliminated, ripped the longest shot of the competition over the playground beyond the left field wall to tie Martinez at seven. In the sudden-death playoff, Martinez walked away with the title by hitting four round-trippers.
The tournament's first official game, played at Cal Sr.'s Yard and featuring the Harford County champs from Forest Hill and the Middle Atlantic team from the Bronx, N.Y., started at 8:30 p.m. The side from New York was dominant, topping the local team, 9-1. The Harford County squad's only run was scored by Jake Johnson, and its only hit, a single, was slapped out by Andy Dodd.
Cal Ripken Jr., who arrived at Cal Sr.'s Yard during the skills competition after a day spent attending to business in Milwaukee, talked about the World Series, the kids taking part, and the experiences he hoped they would take with them"
"This event has grown and grown over the years," Ripken said. "It's a wonderful celebration of the Cal Ripken League. We look at is as giving kids experiences, through the [tournament at] Myrtle Beach, through our camps, and here, and this is just the ultimate experience, because you're playing against world talent. You get to meet kids from all over the world, all over the country, and they come here in search of a championship, but I don't play up the championship part of it. We want them to come here and play hard, play well, but enjoy the experience. The opportunity you have here, you're going to look back on and say, 'I got a chance to meet kids from Japan, Korea, Mexico. I got a chance to see how other kids who love baseball play the game, some of their techniques. So, it's a wonderful opportunity for the kids, and I think that's what we try to emphasize, because they're not going to remember who won, I think they're going to remember the things that happened during this event."