It doesn't seem like it's been all that long since the days when Aberdeen, to folks who lived elsewhere, was synonymous with Aberdeen Proving Ground and little else.
Though the post remains a cornerstone of the community's economy, when it comes to being the touchstone image for Aberdeen, youth baseball is giving the Army a lot of competition.
No one who has spent more than a few weeks in these parts need be reminded that Aberdeen is the boyhood home of Cal Ripken Jr., a wholesome and hardworking figure who never forgot where he came from.
Since his retirement from the Orioles after a Hall of Fame career, he and his family have focused on the vision of turning Aberdeen into a baseball town. Aberdeen may not be on par with other baseball destinations like Williamsport, Pa., home of Little League Baseball, or Cooperstown, N.Y., and its Baseball Hall of Fame. But, then again, Ripken Stadium and the surrounding youth baseball complex are relative newcomers to the world of potential baseball destinations.
This year, it's worth remembering, is only the ninth for the Ripken World Series in Aberdeen (and only the 13th overall), while the Little League World Series is in its 65th year, and the Baseball Hall of Fame has been around for well in excess of a century.
This week, the eyes of proud parents and families — not to mention more than a few people interested in some pretty impressive youth athletics — from around the world are turning their attention to Aberdeen.
It's a wonderful thing for a sport whose adult version has been plagued by scandal and competitive stagnation.
Even as the City of Aberdeen struggles with the prospect of refinancing the debt for its portion of Ripken Stadium, thanks to a large degree to an arrangement prior city officials jumped into all too eagerly, the whole of what baseball has brought to Aberdeen has been as good as or better than anyone could have predicted 20 years ago.
Aberdeen's city government may have short-term financial difficulties because of decisions made more than a decade ago when the whole project seemed as real as, well, a fantasy team. But if the baseball tradition sticks in the city, when people elsewhere in the United States and the world speak of going to Aberdeen, it won't necessarily be presumed they're going for reasons of national defense, but maybe to play ball.