Vi Ripken threw out the first pitch last night to start the 2005 Cal Ripken 12-and-under World Series on a special occasion.
Ripken, mother of ex-Orioles Cal and Bill Ripken, threw a strike from 46 feet at Cal Sr.'s Yard, the scaled-down replica of Camden Yards, named after her late husband."I was getting on her a little bit today, asking her if she was going to throw it the full distance," said Cal Ripken Jr., who put his hands up to warn the Lexington, Ky. and the host Hickory Fountain players lined up along the base lines to watch out. Then Cal Ripken told the players to move away from home plate, which drew a laugh from everyone in the yard, including mom.
"Billy and I worked with her on her mechanics taking her arm back to get her a little more energy to home plate. She got it there. It's a great thing to see Mom basking in the glow."
Fifteen teams, including five international ones, have gathered in Aberdeen for the third straight year to participate in the Babe Ruth League-affiliated World Series. But for the first time, Cal Sr.'s Yard is the centerpiece of the tournament that will run through Aug. 21.
Cal Ripken Sr. was a revered coach in the Orioles organization who died six years ago but was on the minds of the Ripken family last night.
"We have grown each and every year, and today was especially important for me, " said Cal Ripken Jr.
"The opening of Cal Sr.'s Yard, first game here, first night game and first World Series game in its permanent home - it plays really well. The kids are really enjoying themselves, and I'm thinking about Dad a little bit, even though it's been six years.
"It still makes you think how proud he would be about what's happening tonight. I could see it in my Mom's eyes and she's really enjoying it. This is a wonderful thing, and it's only going to get better."
So, what would Cal Sr., think of all this and the plans for two hotels to be constructed behind the right-field fence to duplicate the look of the warehouse at Camden Yards?
Would he believe it?
"No, he would not," Bill Ripken said.
"People ask my Mom what her husband would think if he was still alive. She tells them he would say, `You boys are crazy.
"Sometimes, I think we are, but when you watch the opening ceremonies we just had, with all the teams parading onto the field [from center field to spread across the yard], it's really good and well worth it."