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Official Review by Richard Smith, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Ripken Cup is a series of baseball games held in Aberdeen, MD between local Maryland teams Maryland Terrapins and Towson Tigers. In 2014 two games were scheduled to be played but weather cancelled one of the games. In 2015 only one game was scheduled.
Towson is known for their impressive gymnastics program. They have been the 1968 AIAW Division II National Champions, 1995 and 1998 USA Gymnastics NIT Champions, 3-time Calloway Invitational Champions, 15-time ECAC Champions and 2007 USA Gymnastics National Champions. Baseball has also had some decent success over the years. But recently it has come close to being axed by the university. Only some last minute donations and an agreement with the state kept the program alive. Unfortunately the team has not been doing well on the field, but there is hope for the future.
Maryland baseball has had much less success over the years until recently. In 2014 they made a nice run towards the College World Series and look like they are primed for success as members of the Big Ten Conference.
Ripken Stadium exists because the Aberdeen IronBirds moved to the Baltimore area in 2002 after local legend Cal Ripken Jr. bought the Utica Blue Sox of the New York-Penn League and moved them to his hometown. The Ironbirds play as a member of the New York-Penn League of minor league baseball.
The Ripken Experience youth baseball fields sit near Ripken Stadium and offer some amazing opportunities to watch some good baseball for many age levels. The Cal Ripken Little League World Series for the Major/70 division is played here annually.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Ripken Stadium normally has quite a variety of food choices. For the Ripken Cup only two small connected stands are opened with a limited menu.
Hot dogs are $4.50, with a kids size available for $2.75. There are also hamburgers $5 ($5.50 with cheese). Soda is $3.50. There is also a very limited beer selection.
Ripken Stadium is a very nicely designed stadium. It was obviously designed while looking at what went right and went wrong in baseball design in the late 1990s. The result has often been that the stadium has felt a bit impersonal. The 2014 addition of "Ripken Orange" fences is a welcome attempt at making the place seem warmer, as well as tying into the parent Baltimore Oriole organization. The fences do look much better in person than they appear on paper.
Upon entering the stadium, the seating bowl slopes down towards the field. It is broken up into two main sections separated by a very large walkway area. Beyond the fences, it is not obvious that a major highway is right there, as trees make it a pleasant, albeit not exciting view. When a game such as the Ripken Cup is played before pretty small crowds the sound of I-95 is much more obvious.
There is no real neighborhood. Ripken Stadium is located across I-95 from the rest of Aberdeen. The area around the stadium is ripe for development, but only the Ripken Baseball youth fields, two hotels and some over-50 housing buildings are in the area.
One should wander around the youth baseball complex to see the replica baseball fields designed after Fenway, Yankee, Wrigley and Baltimore's own Memorial Stadium. The centerpiece is Cal Sr.'s Yard, which is home to the Cal Ripken Little League World Series, held in August of each year. It is a near-scale replica of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and even has a replica warehouse building which houses the two hotels mentioned above (Residence Inn Aberdeen and Courtyard Aberdeen).
A short drive away back over I-95 is an abundance of restaurants and hotels. Aberdeen, home to the Army's massive Aberdeen Proving Grounds, is a center of business activity. Olive Tree (1005 Beards Hill Road) is a better version of a well-known Italian chain, while Mamie's Cafe with Love (939 Beards Hill Road) is an old school Baltimore-style restaurant that offers free desserts with all meals. The Greene Turtle, Panera Bread and Super Chicken Rico (690 South Philadelphia Blvd,) are some other choices with which you can't go wrong.
As with most northeast college baseball stadiums, the bulk of the fans tend to be family or friends of both teams. The fans are knowledgeable, but not necessarily loud.
The Ripken Cup should advertise more in the local area as fans in the region may have wanted to attend such a pleasant game at such a nice ballpark. But the word was definitely not out about this event. Only a few hundred fans were in the crowd, although they did make some good noise during the game.
I-95 runs right next to the stadium, which means that access from there and State Route 22 (a major road across the ever growing Harford County) is strong. Long Drive (which was named before the stadium was there, surprisingly) is a four-lane road that is the only way into the stadium area. It never gets too busy, as it is directed by staff and local police.
Parking is free and plentiful, although a bit more busy when the Ripken World Series is in town.
Prices are decent with $5 for upper reserve, $8 for lower reserve and $10 club level. Since you could pretty much have any seat in the park the wise choice is the $5 upper reserve seats.
Playing in such a nice minor league stadium is an extra in itself. Check out the unique orange fence the Ripken's have installed instead of traditional green. It is a nice touch and shows the Orioles heritage well.
The view of the warehouse replica is a great extra, and gives a bit more to the atmosphere of the stadium.
A fan should also stop in and check to see if any youth tournaments are using the Ripken fields. Besides the Ripken World Series, there will be games there all summer.
The Ripken Cup is a great event between two pretty good college baseball programs. Hopefully the next few years will see more fans know about this event so that the stands can get filled.
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