The field of competing teams is set and all that's left to start the 2012 Cal Ripken Major/70 World Series are those two magical words: Play Ball!
Sixteen teams, 10 representing the United States and six from other nations, will begin with pool play as each vie for a spot in the World Series title game. The teams are broken into three pools, two U.S. pools and an International pool.
Unlike past years, in this the 10th series in Aberdeen and 13th Cal Ripken World Series overall, fans can see the first of pool play action Friday night. Harford County champion and host, Forest Hill, will open National pool play against Middle Atlantic champion, Bronx, N.Y. Game time is 8 p.m. on Cal Sr.'s Yard.
Forest Hill will look to become the first Harford County team to advance out of pool play, as none have been able to do so in the previous nine years. Joining Forest Hill and Bronx in the pool are Ohio Valley champion, Mattoon, Ill; Midwest Plains champion, Lamar, Co.; and Southeast champion, Jupiter, Fl.
Mattoon's appearance marks the end of a nine-year appearance in Aberdeen by Southeastern Lexington, Ky. Mattoon is also home to the first contested Cal Ripken World Series in 2000. The team from Lamar is making its first appearance in a Cal Ripken World Series and a team from Jupiter was crowned World Series Champions in 2008.
The American pool is littered with a few familiar names, highlighted by Pacific Southwest champion Oahu, Hawaii. Numerous teams from Hawaii have had good results in past series. New England champion Newtown, Conn., makes its second appearance having been here in 2006, while Southwest champion Little Rock, Ark., also returns after a showing in 2009.
Pacific Northwest champion Longview, Wash., is making its inaugural trip and Maryland State champion Upper Montgomery is back for a third time in 10 years.
The International pool is loaded as usual, with national teams from defending champion Japan and perennial power Mexico. A quick look at the schedule shows their head-to-head match set for Wednesday at 8 p.m. in Cal Sr.'s Yard.
The other national teams in the pool are Republic of Korea, Australia, Canada and Dominican Republic. Any of those could be a first-time champion in Aberdeen.
Full days of pool play will run from Saturday through Wednesday. Saturday play begins at 2:30 p.m., while play Sunday through Wednesday begins at 1 p.m. Games are scheduled to be contested on three fields - Nationals Park, Fenway Park and Cal Sr.'s Yard.