At Friday night's opening ceremonies it was a very pleasant evening, a evening for some that actually turned a bit chilly. If chilly was the only problem, I think we would have been golden.
By the time I arrived at the Ripken Academy Saturday before noon, I was stopped on my way to Fenway Park by Joe Stetka who advised me of the impending rain storm that was moving in. I'm glad I was stopped. The rain that began before noon, created an hour and 43 minute delay of the game I was there to cover, the Japan-Canada contest.
After the lengthy delay, the game was on, but not at Fenway Park. Tarped or not, Fenway was in no shape to have a ball game played on it. Bring in Nationals Park. The turf infield, natural grass outfield was a game saver. I can't imagine anyone disagreeing.
In the many years past, the Cal Ripken World Series has seen its share of rain, but nothing like we witnessed and dealt with the first three days of pool play.
Here's the facts: Without the partial turf fields of Nationals and Citizens Bank parks and the all-turf field of Cal Sr.'s Yard, the 2011 CRWS would have been in a word of hurt. Without the dedication of the Ripken Baseball field crews and maintenance personnel, turf fields or not, actual baseball action would have been minimal. Through Monday night's final out, all 21 pool games scheduled for that time had been played. I don't know of anywhere else in this area where this could have been pulled off.
So, how wonderful is the turf? In my book, pretty awesome.
Now that the three longest days of my summer are behind us, we can look forward to today (Wednesday) and the rest of the week. Pool play will wrap up tonight with likely the most anticipated pool game on the schedule. Mexico at Japan on Cal Sr.'s Yard at 8 p.m. With everything that happened on the fields through Monday, this looks to be another classic. It's free, people, come out and enjoy it.
And there's an added bonus for post game. The International Dance Extravaganza is scheduled for the turf after the game. Young or old, domestic or foreign, you will be invited onto the Cal Sr. turf to shake a few legs, arms and anything else deemed appropriate.
Assuming the weather doesn't throw us another curve, Thursday will be a much needed day off for all involved with the series. Players and coaches included.
Friday will bring the second wave of the tournament as only those who qualified will make their way back onto the playing field of Cal Sr.'s Yard. Saturday will pit the tournament's best four teams in United States and International Championship games and of course Sunday, the best U.S. and International clubs will battle for the World Championship.
I'm not going to put any pressure on any of the teams that will reach Friday's semifinals, but my instincts tell me the world title will not be kept in the borders of the United States this year. That said, good luck to all competitors who reach Friday's semi's and for those who don't, thanks for being part of this year's series and congratulations for making it this far.