The Cal Ripken World Series, played over the past 11 days in Aberdeen, links two of the biggest names in baseball history.
"You get the Babe Ruth people and the Cal Ripken people and mend them together with Cal and Billy Ripken themselves; it doesn't get any better than that," said Chuck Ross, manager of the Lexington, Ky., team that competed in the tournament for 12-year-old players at Ripken Stadium.
Ron Tellefsen, the president and CEO of Babe Ruth League, Inc., since 1980, made it official Saturday that the Cal Ripken World Series would be in Aberdeen "for many years to come."
This was the fourth Cal Ripken World Series, but the first played at the stadium, which was transformed to a youth-sized field from a 90-foot diamond used by the IronBirds.
Many participants said they were impressed with the top-notch field conditions, the state-of-the-art sound system and large video scoreboard. Excellent community involvement was noted, too, as evidenced by the large crowds and generosity of host families.
Members of the Ripken family, including the matriarch, Vi Ripken, were active participants along with former Orioles great Cal Ripken and his brother, Bill, who helped organize the event.
Cal Ripken had near daily autograph sessions, and the Ripken brothers ran clinics and skills days for the players, including an impromptu clinic Saturday morning for the four teams eliminated in Friday's playoffs.
Tellefsen said he and Babe Ruth officials were impressed "with Cal's sincerity to make the World Series an unforgettable event for the kids and his commitment to its growth and turning Ripken Stadium and Cal Sr.'s Yard into our field of dreams."
Cal Sr.'s Yard, named for Ripken's late father, is a stadium with a youth-sized field that is under construction and will include a four-story replica of the B&O; warehouse.
"When Cal Sr.'s Yard is finished, complete with the warehouse and all the amenities we have here, this [the Aberdeen complex] will be the premier destination for the World Series," Cal Ripken said. "All good things come to those who keep pushing at it and keep waiting."
Tellefsen said the Ruth-Ripken affiliation "started years ago when I met Cal Sr. and got to know firsthand of his love of the game. I saw his genuine love of the game and for kids
"I had taken my son [Steven M. Tellefsen, Babe Ruth League commissioner of baseball] to Senior's summer camp and he taught us the 'Ripken Way' and had the same vision we had to make baseball fun for kids.
"Only Babe Ruth's name was used on our leagues [ages 9 to 18], and Cal's is the only other we would have considered. Since we put Cal's name on the former Bambino program [under-10 and under-12 age groups], we have seen an increase of 6 1/2 percent to 7 percent in the total numbers and this year ... we reached 1 million participants."