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Members of team Japan take a victory lap oround the outfield after winning the 2016 World Series at Cal Sr.'s Yard in Aberdeen in August. The 12-U youth baseball tournament is leaving Aberdeen after 13 years.
Members of team Japan take a victory lap oround the outfield after winning the 2016 World Series at Cal Sr.'s Yard in Aberdeen in August. The 12-U youth baseball tournament is leaving Aberdeen after 13 years. (MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF / Baltimore Sun)

After 13 years, the Cal Ripken Major/70 World Series, a Babe Ruth League international tournament for players ages 11 and 12, is leaving Aberdeen, and the baseball complex that includes a stadium and youth baseball complex bearing the Ripken name.

Ripken Baseball, which hosted the tournament locally for 10 days each summer, and the Babe Ruth organization both confirmed the impending move.

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"They [Ripken Baseball] made the decision they didn't want to host it anymore," Babe Ruth Vice President/Commissioner Robert Faherty, Jr. said. "We were advised that Ripken Incorporated was no longer going to host the event."

It costs about $100,000 to host the World Series, according to Faherty.

"Beginning in the summer of 2017, Ripken Baseball will not host the Babe Ruth League/Cal Ripken Division World Series at our facility in Aberdeen," John Bramlette, executive vice president of amateur baseball for the Ripken organization, said in a statement. "The support of the community has been nothing short of amazing since we began hosting this event 13 years ago."

For the last 13 years we have enjoyed hosting the annual Cal Ripken World Series in our hometown of Aberdeen. Although we had to make the difficult decision to no longer host the event for a number of reasons I look back on those years with great fondness.

"In bringing the World Series here, the hope was to stage a terrific event in this community," Bramlette continued. "Due to the hospitality and efforts of so many people in Aberdeen and Harford County, the World Series has grown into an international event that has created special memories for players, coaches, community members and volunteers alike. It has been a great run that none of us will ever forget."

The tournament moved to Aberdeen in 2003, a few years after retired Orioles Hall of Fame player Cal Ripken Jr. became affiliated with the Babe Ruth League organization and a new division of the youth baseball organization was created under his name.

Cal Ripken Jr. sent a letter to the editor of The Aegis and The Record about the decision to no longer host the series.

"Although we had to make the difficult decision to no longer host the event for a number of reasons I look back on those years with great fondness," Ripken said, in part, in his letter to the editor. "I want to thank everyone who helped make the World Series such a fantastic event. The volunteers and host families committed themselves to this event and the kids from around the world each and every year and we simply could not have done it without you."

The Babe Ruth organization is seeking bids to host the 2016 12-U "Major 70" series which will still carry the Cal Ripken name, according to Faherty. Babe Ruth's Ripken division has programs and tournaments for several age groups playing on both 60-foot and 70-foot diamonds.

"To host a Babe Ruth World series is $45,000," he said. "And on top of that the budget will be closer to $100,000 ... All of the income produced after that guarantee stays in the community."

"Babe Ruth League couldn't be happier and more proud of our association in what we were able to do in our time in Aberdeen, but it's an opportunity for us to go and expand the brand of 70-foot baseball around the country," Faherty said.

Ripken Baseball, meanwhile, is not leaving Aberdeen and will continue to provide a variety of youth baseball programs at The Ripken Experience, Bramlette said.

In just one week, another Cal Ripken World Series will descend upon us here in Harford County as 18 teams seek to become World Champions.

"Ripken Baseball remains dedicated to Aberdeen and Harford County. Our sole focus in the amateur baseball space will be on delivering first-class experiences to the teams, families and players who join us from around the country at The Ripken Experience Aberdeen powered by Under Armour," he said.

"We are grateful beyond words to our supporters, volunteers and incredibly generous host families who have opened their doors each summer to young ballplayers from around the world. We are proud to have hosted the Cal Ripken World Series and look forward to continuing our strong relationship with the Babe Ruth League."

The first year in Aberdeen, world series games were played at Ripken Stadium, home of the Aberdeen IronBirds minor league team, where the regular 90-foot diamond was converted to a 60-foot surface with portable snow fence placed across the outfield.

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A couple of years later, the series was moved to Cal Sr.'s Yard and surrounding Major League replica fields comprising The Ripken Experience – Aberdeen Powered by Under Amour complex next to the minor league stadium. The series was changed from the 60-foot to 70-foot base paths with most games being played at Cal Sr. Yard, a replica of Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

In 2003, an 12-year old boy from Hilo, Hawaii played in the Cal Ripken World Series, the first ever played in Aberdeen.

The 2016 tournament featured 10 teams from the United States and eight international teams from Japan, Mexico, Canada, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Australia and Republic of Korea. Japan, the tournament's international champion, defeated U.S. champ Kennewick, Wash., 7-0, to win the world championship on Aug. 6.

The Aberdeen series has always featured a Harford County host/championship team and a Maryland state champion. Those teams will now have to qualify through regional tournaments.

For the first time, two Harford County teams, one from Hickory-Fountain Green, and the other from Bel Air, were the host and Maryland state champion teams, respectively, in the 2016 series, after the Bel Air team qualified in a Maryland tournament.

"This is very sad and disappointing," Joe McIlhenney, who coached on Hickory teams that had success in two of the past three world series, said. "This is a sad day for Harford County Ripken baseball programs."

Local host families have been a major part of the series since it came to Aberdeen.

"It's not that you want to keep doing it, because you're tired, but you don't want to stop, because you're so close to the family, so close to the team," LeiIani Rice said.

Rice and her husband, Jim, and their family have hosted series players from Japan for the past nine years.

"We kind of had a feeling that was going to happen, oh well," she said.

Aberdeen Mayor Patrick McGrady said he had not heard the Ripken series would be leaving.

McGrady threw out the first pitch at this year's series.

"I think the [Ripken] World Series is a lot of fun," he said.

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