The nine-day 2015 Cal Ripken World Series kicks off July 24, bringing youth baseball players from throughout the U.S. and the world to Harford County, along with well-known figures such as Maryland First Lady Yumi Hogan and Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred.
Manfred, who was elected as the 10th MLB commissioner in August 2014, is scheduled to attend the series on July 30 for the U.S. semifinal round, according to a press release from Ripken Baseball.
Hogan, who grew up in South Korea, will meet the Korean team July 25 and throw out the first pitch that day, according to the news release.
"Our World Series will continue to be a celebration of the best youth baseball in the world with tremendous community support, and we look forward to seeing everyone in Aberdeen this month," Cal Ripken Jr., chairman and founder of Ripken Baseball and a Hall-of-Fame former Baltimore Oriole, said in a statement.
Katy Ford, a spokesperson for Ripken Baseball, said the baseball commissioner will be able to see international Babe Ruth League players when he comes to Aberdeen.
Manfred is the first MLB commissioner to attend the Cal Ripken World Series, according to Ford.
"I think it's an honor for both the league and Harford County to be part of that and show the commissioner what the [Cal Ripken] World Series is all about," Ford said.
Ten teams of 12-year-old players will represent regions of the United States, including Harford County, Maryland, New England, the Southwest, the Pacific Southwest, the Pacific Northwest, the Ohio Valley, the Midwest Plains, the Middle Atlantic and the Southeast.
The U.S. teams are the champions of their respective regions. This year's Pacific Southwest team hails from Honolulu, Hawaii; the Pacific Northwest team is from Meridian, Idaho; the Southwest team is from Mobile, Ala.; the Maryland team is from White Plains in Charles County; the Ohio Valley team is from Ottawa, Ill.; the Mid-Atlantic team is from East Brandywine, Pa.; the Southeast team is from West Raleigh, N.C., and the Harford County team is represented by Hickory-Fountain Green.
The qualifying teams for the New England and Midwest Plains regions must still be determined, according to Ford.
There will also be eight international teams, representing Canada, Puerto Rico, Japan, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, New Zealand, South Korea and Australia.
Southeast, which also hailed from West Raleigh, defeated Mexico, 5-2, for the 2014 CRWS title.
The series is the championship tournament for the Babe Ruth League's 12U Major/70 Cal Ripken Division. It has traditionally been held in August, but the 16th annual series has been scheduled for late July this year.
Colin Clark, vice president of corporate marketing and corporate partnerships for Ripken Baseball, has said previously the series was moved up "to allow it to have its own moment in the sports landscape during that time."
The Little League World Series typically runs at the same time as the Cal Ripken series. This year's Little League World Series runs from July 28 to Aug. 30, according to the Little League website.
"We have permanently moved the dates forward and are excited by the advantages this will provide," Ripken stated.
The teams will play on fields in The Ripken Experience Aberdeen Powered by Under Armour complex in Aberdeen. The fields, which are next to the Courtyard by Marriott hotel and Ripken Stadium, are designed to resemble Major League ballparks such as Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Opening night events include the opening ceremonies, a skills competition and home run derby, which begin at 5 p.m. The first game, between Harford County and Middle Atlantic, will be played at 8 p.m., according to the news release.
Pool play among the U.S. and international teams continues through July 29.
The semifinals begin July 30; the international and U.S. championship games will be played July 31 and the winners of each game will compete Aug. 1 for the World Championship.