Though the carnival, water slides, commercial and food pavilions, yoga classes and legions of parents, coaches and fans had yet to set up shop at the Ripken Baseball Complex in Aberdeen, the athletes taking part in this year's 2012 Cal Ripken 12U Major 70 World Series, a nine-day event that starts Friday night, were out in force Thursday afternoon, braving the 90-degree heat to get in some practice.
The Ripken World Series kicks off at 5 p.m. Friday evening with an opening ceremony at Cal Sr.'s Yard, after which a skills competition and a home run derby will be held. At 8 p.m., the Harford County Champs will square off with the Mid-Atlantic squad, a team from the Bronx, N.Y., for the tournament's first official contest.
During the tournament, which wraps Sunday, Aug. 19, with the World Championship game between the American and International champs, Ripken Baseball has planned a concert featuring Reba McEntire at Ripken Stadium, a carnival, a water slide, two all-you-can-eat food feasts, two dance parties, yoga and Zumba lessons and a team parade through downtown Aberdeen Saturday morning.
Out in the Thursday afternoon heat, playing each other in one last tune-up before their first tournament games Saturday, were two teams from opposite ends of the world. The defending World Champs – Japan – were facing the Maryland state champs from Boyds.
Beside Japan, the only other international team visible at the complex Thursday was Canada. Most of the foreign teams had booked the afternoon for tourist activities in Harford County and Baltimore. The Canadian team, which starts its tournament Saturday night with a 7:30 game at Cal Sr.'s Yard against four-time champ, the powerhouse Mexican national team, was spending its afternoon at the complex's batting cages, working out kinks in their swings, and, afterward, lounging on the patio in front of the Marriott Hotel next to Cal Sr.'s Yard. Standing there was Canadian middle infielder and pitcher Mikey Clapperton, who gave his thoughts on the coming tournament.
"This place is really nice, with that turf field and everything," Clapperton said. "We were just doing [batting practice] today, over at the cages. Our first game is going to be sweet though. We're playing Mexico at the main field. They're really good, but I think we have a three out of 10 chance to win. If we have a good game, who knows what could happen. This is my first year at this tournament, and I'm really excited to start playing games."