It's a little hard to believe that we're smack dab in the middle of another Cal Ripken World Series. But, this isn't just another series, it's year number 10 since the series made Aberdeen and the Ripken Baseball Complex its home.
Much has happened over those 10 years, with a number of changes to both the game itself and many things that are part of the entire world series experience.
Taking a quick look back, 10 years ago, we watched in amazement as Ripken Stadium was transformed from a top-notch minor league stadium into a state of the art 60-foot diamond for the younger guys. I dare say smaller.
In two quick years, the fields and complex we now enjoy were built, and I believe the event became that much more enjoyable.
In a few short years, we watched the game itself change as Cal Ripken promoted a 70-foot base path and 50-foot pitching distance game that has made the games more exciting. I'd still like to have a dollar, though, for all the failed pickoff attempts.
With the introduction of turf, we've seen games played after some pretty heavy rains. In those first few years, play on Cal Sr.'s Yard and its natural grass and dirt, was limited, so the field was ready for the semifinals and eventual championship games.
This year alone, 20 pool games will be played on Cal Sr.'s Yard and its turf. Also, the infield on Nationals Park is turf, making it easier to get games going once the rain has stopped.
The change in uniforms also took place a few years ago. Teams now wear Under Armour uniforms when playing in Cal Sr.'s Yard, while they can wear their own gear and colors when playing on the other fields. It's not shock though, when you see a team wearing the Under Armour clothing on the other fields.
A special United States jersey was unveiled at Friday night's opening ceremony. That's a change as well.
Again, looking back 10 years ago, we watched a parade in downtown Aberdeen, and now, we were treated to it again. I didn't get a chance to see it, but I heard it was nice.
As for off the field stuff, this marks the second year that I can think of that players and fans had a chance to get wet. Giant water slides sat on the hill above center field in Cal Sr.'s Yard. The action was constant.
As of Tuesday, something completely new was due to arrive at the series: a carnival.
The carnival will feature such favorites as the Big Swing, Fun Slide, Loop' Plane, Ring-A-Bottle, Water Race, Basketball Inflatable and a funnel cake stand. The carnival will be in operation through Sunday's world championship game.
Concerts are nothing new to Aberdeen and Ripken Stadium, but a concert the same time a series game is being played is something new. That's right, country music star Reba McEntire will take the stage at Ripken Stadium Friday night while the U.S. semifinal game is played next door at Cal Sr.'s Yard, again another new item as part of the World Series.
The Cal Ripken World Series has been a part of us now for 10 years and I'm glad we have it. The spirit and camaraderie that I see displayed on and off the field is awesome. Here's to this year's participants and to another quick 10 years.