Aberdeen High School put Cal Ripken Jr., Class of 1978, on its Walk of Fame months before baseball writers nominated the former Oriole for honors at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Still, the idea that an alumnus had won a place among baseball immortals thrilled the faculty and students at the school, where Ripken studied and played baseball and soccer.
Photos and plaques honoring Ripken and his father, Cal Ripken Sr., a 1953 graduate, are displayed in the school's Walk of Fame, a sunlit gallery nearly 1,600 students pass through daily.
"We are thrilled with this latest recognition," said Principal Thomas Szerensits, who taught English during Cal Jr.'s time at the school. "No one who knows him is surprised."
Cal Jr. earned a varsity spot on the Aberdeen Eagles his freshman year. The team won the state baseball championship in 1978, his senior year.
"Goofing off was not part of his vocabulary," said Don Morrison, Ripken's high school baseball coach, who is now spokesman for Harford County schools. "Calvin was a quiet, confident young man. He did not need to be the center of attention. He was just happy with playing well."
Morrison called Ripken a credit to his craft, as well as to his community. "With all that is going on in sports today, we have somebody who is credited with saving baseball after the strike, who has international respect and who has remained family-oriented," he said. "He is a special individual who combines inner drive with compassion."
The school created the walk, its own accolade for distinguished alumni, last year, with five honorees. Administrators will add three more names this spring.
"It is along our main walkway," said Szerensits. "Students see it every day and, hopefully, it inspires them."
Within sight of the lobby and main offices, the decorated pillars briefly detail the lives of the Ripkens and professional football stars E.J. Henderson, a 1998 graduate, and Irv Pankey, Class of 1976. Michael Griffin, who graduated in 1967, was named NASA's administrator nearly two years ago and is his alma mater's fifth honoree.
"Not bad for a small school in Harford County," Szerensits said.
Several professional athletes have spent their high school years at Aberdeen High, said Charles "Rigor" Mortus, assistant athletic director and swim coach. Others may be in training - a few on a school ball field dedicated to Cal Ripken Sr., he said.
In addition to Cal and his brother, Billy, Mortus listed other well-known alumni, including Henderson, who plays for the Minnesota Vikings, and his younger brother Erin, sophomore linebacker at University of Maryland. Pankey played for the Los Angeles Rams.
"Who knows? We might have someone go into the football Hall of Fame, too," said Mortus, who is planning a trip to Cooperstown, N.Y., for the induction ceremony in July - that is, if his boss, whom he sometimes slips and calls "Calvin," just like he did in high school, gives him time off. Mortus, whom Ripken calls "Rigor" like everyone else, runs the Oriole legend's summer baseball camps in Aberdeen and is a longtime friend of the Ripken family - "a neat family, really hometown people," he said.
The announcement on Tuesday brought TV crews and reporters to the school as well as County Executive David R. Craig.
"We have a Hall of Famer, the world champion skater, Kimmie Meissner, and Cigar, the renowned racehorse," Craig said. "It would be tough for any other county to beat that."