In a backhanded, roundabout way, I kinda, sorta worked for Cal Ripken, Jr., who's our guest later today. Eight summers ago, I did a season of radio play by play for the Aberdeen Arsenal, a team in the independent Atlantic League that was co-owned by a company called Maryland Baseball and Ripken Baseball. Bill Ripken held the title of General Manager and I saw him frequently at home games. His big brother was busy that season playing third base about twenty-five miles down the road at Camden Yards in Baltimore and this will be the first time I've spoken with Cal - and since he'll be at the studio of WYPR, our member station in Baltimore, I will still not have met him in person.
Aberdeen is a gritty little city (some residential parts are very nice but downtown is quite a bit down at the heels, or was in 2000, when I was there) where Cal grew up - his dad, of course, was a long time coach and later the manager of the Orioles - home to the Ripken Museum, Ripken Baseball and Ripken Stadium. The dream, now realized, was to build a beautiful minor league ball park, with a set of youth baseball fields around it, one modeled on the old Memorial Stadium, others on Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium. I believe it's all finally in place, but I have yet to visit. Because that was supposed to be MY ballpark. The partnership between the Ripkens and Maryland Baseball frayed - my understanding was that the Maryland Baseball people didn't believe the business plan was on track, while the Ripkens wanted to press ahead. The partnership dissolved, the Aberdeen Arsenal went out of business, I went back to NPR and the park was later built to house a team called the Aberdeen Ironbirds, an Orioles affiliate in the short season A New York Penn League. Sure I'm bitter, but then again, I will always be the one and only Voice of the Aberdeen Arsenal.