It was inevitable that the imbroglio between the City of Aberdeen and Cal Ripken Jr.’s organization would end up in the courts, and that’s exactly what happened last week.
Tufton Professional Baseball LLC, owned by the MLB Hall of Fame player and his family, sued the city for allegedly breaching the contract the two signed almost 18 years ago that lays out their respective responsibilities for the use, management and maintenance of Ripken Stadium. The deal was signed as the stadium, since rechristened Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium, was in the final planning stages and was essential to the stadium being built and to Cal Ripken bringing the minor league Aberdeen IronBirds to his hometown.
We’re not going to rehash the escalating dispute between the city government and Tufton, which has been covered ad nauseam in our news columns and commented upon with equal repetition. It’s been our position that the city, in the person of Mayor Patrick McGrady, City Manager Randy Robertson and a majority of the City Council, has acted against the best interests of Aberdeen, the city’s residents and taxpayers, as well as Harford County residents – and the aforementioned city officials themselves, in hectoring Tufton, while seeking ways to essentially get out of an agreement that not only appears to be ironclad legally, but also which could be enforced for as long as 26 years, if Tufton so chooses.
McGrady has made it clear he doesn’t want the city to continue owning the stadium, which under the current agreement, leaves it responsible for maintenance and major repairs. Since he was hired by Aberdeen two years ago, Robertson has made it clear he didn’t sign on to manage a baseball stadium. And, the council members have been seduced by the cockeyed notion that somehow the city can make money from the facility without having to pay for its care.
In the end, the unthinkable has become reality. The Aberdeen community looks foolish, because of the pigheadedness of its elected leaders. The city is going to end up spending a lot more tax dollars than it should have, regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit. And, as is usually the case with litigation, the only winners will be the lawyers.