Proud Ripkens kick off first youth series by 'celebrating' baseball

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The book on Cal Ripken's playing career has been written, and it's chock-full of unforgettable memories.

Now Ripken and his brother Bill are writing a new book of memories to perpetuate the legacy of their late father, Cal Ripken Sr.

The virtual Hall of Fame lock and Bill, who is the executive vice president of Ripken Baseball, are the main organizers of the Babe Ruth League-affiliated 12-and-under Cal Ripken World Series in their hometown of Aberdeen.

Tournament play begins today, and the event kicked off last night with an opening ceremony and home run derby before a crowd of about 2,500.

"I think he would be extremely proud right now," Cal Ripken said of his father, who was known as a baseball teacher with professional and youth players at his longtime summer camps and clinics.

"I could see it in my mom's eyes and how proud she is. Dad would be out there just like Billy was tonight, making sure the kids had a good time and teaching the game.

"Those of us who knew Dad, especially when he moved around in a baseball uniform when he's teaching kids, he would have been beaming. In many ways we are just beginning and we're doing this in his spirit. He taught us to love the game of baseball and we're trying to pass that on.

"This commnuity was always very important to them. It makes us feel really good to bring this back to Aberdeen and celebrate baseball."

With Vi Ripken, the widow of Cal Sr., looking on from the upper level, last night's opening ceremony began with a group of local youth dancers followed by the introduction of every player on the 15 teams as they marched in from right field to the infield.

Then, Cal Ripken presented a participation plaque to the host Aberdeen team, and Babe Ruth officials made presentations to other teams with the exception of the Upper Montgomery team, the Little Train.

Bill Ripken did the honors, handing the plaque to the the state champion from Bethesda.

Soon after the color guard and national anthem by country music star Shaunna Bolton, it was time for the Sports Illustrated for Kids Home Run Derby.

Bill and Cal Ripken warmed up on the mound, 46 feet from home plate, by throwing some batting practice to Cal's 10-year-old son, Ryan. Cal then took a few cuts.

It took him awhile to hit one over the 220-foot sign in left field, but finally, on his last swing he lifted one over the fence used by his minor-league team, the IronBirds.

"I went to a bigger bat," he said.

Jacob Mayers of Glen Allen, Va., won the home run derby by hitting 13, one more than Blake Evans of Arkansas.

"It felt really good," said Mayers, who pitched a no-hitter in the final of the Southeast Regional and said his favorite player is Barry Bonds.

Earlier in the day, a base-running relay and around the horn throwing relay were held in what was a "skills day" for the teams.

Hawaii's Jeremy Criviello and Aaron Soong edged New Jersey's Justin Pittner and Evan Fontleroy by less than a second.

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