Ten years ago, it was something of a curiosity around these parts, but now it's something that's become a tradition for Aberdeen and the rest of Harford County.
The Cal Ripken World Series, the season finale for the Babe Ruth youth baseball organization, has been calling Aberdeen's Ripken Youth Baseball Complex home for a decade as of this year. The event, coupled with the commitment of the Ripken family to the endeavor, has done something a certain segment of Aberdeen's community had been trying to accomplish as far back as the days whenCal Ripken Jr. was pitching for the Aberdeen High varsity team. The World Series has put Aberdeen in an international spotlight - and in a very positive way - for a solid week every August.
Realistically, little else in Aberdeen has changed it a decade. It is still a modest-sized town that has to deal with the problems that face such communities all over the country. Traffic, crime, drugs, gang infiltration and other social ills haven't gone away. To a certain degree, however, they have been put in a more realistic perspective by a segment of the community, which tended to view these fairly universal social ills as unique black eyes for the community.
Though there are many points of community pride for Aberdeen, ranging from the many high-achieving graduates of Aberdeen High School to the community's long and proud association with Aberdeen Proving Ground and to the historic ties to the pioneering days of the railroad and food canning industries. For better or worse, however, it took the pride of a native son and his family to demonstrate to the community at large that, even as he made possible an international gathering of young people in pursuit of athletic achievement, Aberdeen has actually been a perfectly nice place all along.
The commitment of the Ripken family was especially apparent this year, as the annual youth World Series was preceded by the bizarre kidnapping of Vi Ripken, Cal Jr.'s mother and matriarch of the family, from her Aberdeen home just a few days before the international event was set to begin. Despite this frightening experience for family and every other Aberdeen resident, and despite that the kidnapper, considered armed and dangerous, is still on the loose, the Ripkens have maintained their high profile roles in what has become the signature annual event for their hometown.
Plenty of people, fortunately, already knew Aberdeen was a great place to call home. It's been a long time, however, since "the image problem" has been much of an issue within Aberdeen. Possibly it has taken a decade of the Great American Pastime being played by kids from around the world in Aberdeen to crystallize that the city is, despite the problems it shares with many other communities, a perfectly nice place to also spend the other 51 weeks of every year.