Ninety minutes before the start of Wednesday evening's IronBirds game with the Jamestown Jammers in Aberdeen, a Ripken Baseball employee addressed the dozen or so assembled stadium crew in the facility's press booth: "We all know what happened with Mrs. Vi. It's a scary situation, but let's just be happy she's safe at home."
The employee was referring to the frightening abduction of the Ripken family matriarch, 74-year-old Violet Ripken, known universally as Vi, who was taken at gunpoint from outside her Aberdeen home between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. Tuesday, then found unharmed 24 hours later in her vehicle near her home Wednesday morning.
Spectators milling outside of Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen before the gates opened for Wednesday's game echoed the sentiments expressed in the press booth.
Jerry Bainbridge, whose loud IronBirds' apparel and presence at nearly every Aberdeen home game have earned him the nickname IronFan, and who tossed out the ceremonial first pitch before this season's home opener, was relaxing on the tailgate of his truck before the game.
"I work from home, so I heard about it pretty early on, when I looked at the IronBirds' Facebook page," Bainbridge, who lives in Abingdon, said. "I was just shocked. It's really scary to hear things like that, but it's good to hear she made it home. I don't know who would want to do that to her. I've known Vi and the family for years; she's a tough, tough lady."
Larry and Sheree Cates, baseball fans from North Carolina, who were staying at the Courtyard Marriott Hotel in the Ripken Baseball Complex, had just learned of the incident before heading across the parking lot to the stadium.
"We were on the road, so we didn't hear about it until we got to the hotel and turned on the news," Larry Cates said. "I haven't heard of anything like that before. It's scary to think someone can just walk into your house. She made it out okay though, so that's a relief."
"I wonder why anyone would target her" Sheree Cates said. "And, who would actually do something like that? It ended with no one getting hurt, but it makes you wonder."
Andrew Murr, of Conowingo, whose parents' are IronBirds season ticket holders, said he learned of the abduction while at work Wednesday and that Vi's ordeal brought to mind another crime involving the parent of a famous athlete.
"I was really shocked to hear about it, just stunned," Murr said. "When I saw the headlines today, my first thought was of what happened to Michael Jordan's father. That was a real tragedy. Things like this usually don't end well; it's a relief she made it out safe. I'd hate to think how people in this area would take it if she'd gotten hurt."
As of game time Wednesday, the IronBirds' front office had not issued a statement on the incident, and Ripken Stadium employees had been advised not to discuss Vi's abduction with the media.