Ripken Stadium, located in Aberdeen, Md., is quickly becoming a revered destination for aspiring players throughout the country, a resource easily available to those in the nearby Brandywine region.
Given the exceptional quality of the facilities and the proven method of instruction, it’s easy to see why Ripken Stadium and its surrounding campus has become home to one of the most prestigious baseball camps on the East Coast.
Entering the Stadium’s campus, to the right stands Ripken Stadium, a state-of-the-art facility that serves as the Aberdeen Ironbird’s home field. To the left, baseball diamonds and practice fields regularly trigger daydreams in the minds of young baseball players.
Cal Sr.’s Yard, a youth-sized replica of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, is where the camp begins for the day. After morning warm-ups and stretches, the campers break into groups. Groups rotate through stations located throughout the many fields in the Ripken Stadium campus. Each station is designed to isolate a specific skill, helping the campers learn the game at a fundamental level. The latter half of the day is then spent playing instructional scrimmage games, where camp instructors are able to analyze player’s abilities and provide them with feedback. Many acknowledge the quality of instruction as being outstanding.
Of course, being associated with Hall-of-Fame baseball legend Cal Ripken, Jr., doesn’t hurt either.
“Part of our philosophy here at the camp is to make sure the kids have fun, and expose them to all the teaching that I had. The most important thing for [the campers] is we hope to encourage them to play more baseball and have baseball play more into their lives,” said Ripken at a Citi Bank Private Pass event, which provided Citi customers with an exclusive meet-and-greet opportunity.
More than 300 campers participated in the July 16-19 camp session, one of several being held throughout the summer. A stroll through the parking lot reveals the camps geographic reach: License plates from Tennessee, Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts could be spotted in one aisle of cars alone.
George and Kathleen Allen from Oswego, N.Y., have been thrilled with the camp’s caliber, making their attendance a family tradition. “This is our fifth year here,” said George. “The teaching fundamentals they have here and the repeatability of it is great. It’s a great complex with great facilities.” While George and Kathleen’s two sons attend the camp, learning position-specific fundamentals from some of baseball’s best teachers and all-stars, the rest of the family likes watching them and exploring the shopping and restaurants in the Aberdeen area. “We get some family time, and the boys are very interested in baseball, so it’s nice to watch them do something they enjoy,” added George.
But, why travel so far? Aberdeen is a hike from the Allen’s Oswego home. According to George, baseball camps near his family’s home are “only half-day camps.” James Zeoli, a Boston-area resident whose son Chris attended the Ripken camp, has had similar problems trying to find a camp of this caliber near him. “Camps on par with this one are probably in California, Texas, Arizona, and Florida – much farther from here. I can’t believe there’s not another one up in my area – as far as I can tell [this camp] is pretty unique to this part of the country.”
The Ripken camp has developed a reputation for quality and excellence but Ripken focuses more on the camp’s work than its competitors. “You know, I should probably know who the competitors are, but I didn’t do it for that reason,” Ripken said. “There was more of a philanthropic view, where you’re using your position as an athlete to give kids the experience that you had – I’m talking about the Big League experience.”
Ripken’s love for baseball, along with his desire to do anything he can to improve the lives of young people, penetrates every aspect of the camp. While the camp’s focus is on improving the skills of the players in attendance, it’s also focused on ensuring a fun, memorable time for all. “I think at first we thought [the camp] was going to be all about the serious baseball players, but if you look around it’s just people that love baseball,” said Ripken, adding that he hopes every camper leaves with a deeper appreciation for the game. “Through this camp, if we’re exposing [campers], through our teaching, to some of the deeper meanings of the game, then we’re making them love the game a little bit more.”
Visit www.ripkenbaseball.com for more information about Ripken baseball camps, accommodations, and more.