With Opening Day just a few days away, a number of Aberdeen IronBirds and their coaching staff were on site Thursday at Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium.
Aberdeen manager Kevin Bradshaw and a few players were available to media, following an extensive closed workout that lasted three hours and 10 minutes.
The IronBirds will open their 16th New York-Penn League season, Monday at Ripken Stadium. The 'Birds will take on the Hudson Valley Renegades with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m.
"I've had these guys through spring training, extended spring," Bradshaw said. "We had to bring the whole team up here to make sure we had it covered for the opening night. One thing I can say about these guys is that they have worked hard. I mean it seems like we have been down there for six months and they've worked hard."
Bradshaw, who took over the manager role in late June last season, is seeing his first opening day with the IronBirds. Bradshaw noted that after the length of time he and the players have spent in Florida, he might be more excited and ready than they are.
The players who made up the non-official roster to be seen Thursday were a mix of former IronBirds, 2017 draft picks, Gulf Coast League players and free agents.
One of the free agents is no stranger to the stadium or its name. First baseman Ryan Ripken, the son of Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr., was a free agent signee in late March.
"Obviously I have familiarity with the team and the organization and the area. I think the big thing is I'm just excited for the start of a new season," Ripken said. "I understand, people are going to look into the name of the stadium and relatives, the kind of legacy they've brought to this area, but for me, I'm just excited about being an IronBird and focusing on opening day and trying to be the best that I can be to help us have a good year."
Ripken played a few games in Ripken Stadium last season as a member of the Auburn Doubledays, the Washington Nationals affiliate.
Jason Heinrich is another player who played in Ripken Stadium, but as a member of the IronBirds outfield last year. Heinrich, however, was part of a trade the Baltimore Orioles made with Arizona late last season. Henrich was since relased and resigned with Baltimore.
"It was good news to find out I was coming back here, this kind of feels like home to me," Heinrich said. "So it's nice to be back home, where I'm comfortable, I live an hour away from the spring training complex and I've played here before, so it's good to be back."
The IronBirds have fame connections at every corner it seems. In addition to Ripken, Tim Raines, Jr., is the hitting coach for 2017. Raines is the son of another MLB Hall of Fame member, Tim Raines.
One of the Orioles 2017 draft picks, Zach Jarrett, has racing in his blood. Zach, an outfielder from UNC Charlotte, is the son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett and the grandson of Hall of Famer Ned Jarrett.
The IronBirds are inviting fans out for a 'Night Under the Lights' on Saturday to experience more than $2 million in facility upgrades and watch the team practice free of charge at the stadium.
Gates for a Night Under the Lights open at 6 p.m. on Saturday and the team will take the field at 7 p.m. for practice. Following the team's workout, IronBirds players will be available for autographs.