“I’ve been dreaming of this since I was about 8…” said Tyler Woolsey. He is not alone. All of the Bel Air Braves are, and it was obvious as they participated in the Opening Day Ceremonies kicking off the ninth annual Cal Ripken World Series Friday night.
The Braves are the host team and as the representative of Harford County received a warm welcome from the crowd at Cal Sr.’s Yard. One by one, each of the 16 teams took to the field while every player, manager, ambassador and bat boy was announced. It was a moment of bliss for these young gamers standing on the cusp of the infield at Sr’s yard.
Hometown families were also reveling. And still are. “This week, the boys will make memories that will last a lifetime. As a parent, I feel an overwhelming sense of joy that my son’s dream of playing in the [Series] is coming true!” said Karen Woolsey.
Christina McDonough whose brother Eric is on the team is an athlete herself- playing soccer and basketball. This 11-year old was donning big brother’s jersey. Eric participated in the homerun derby, which is one of three skills competitions put on for the audience. Christina helped him prepare. “I collected the balls when he hit them.” Does he appreciate that? “I don’t think so,” she said smiling. Christina was hoping her brother could knock a few out. “I’m excited because he is my brother and he is a good player.” Eric’s hitting abilities were on display as he went yard, but unfortunately didn’t bring in the win.
As Hall-of-Famer Cal Ripken Jr. addressed the crowd he said that this was a celebration of youth baseball, it’s about competition, fair play and playing honorably. And to keep in tune with that, Bel Air’s own, Sam Thornton was chosen to read the Code of Conduct. As he began, the microphone was not turned on and nothing was coming out. One of the workers told him it was turned on. So he started again- same thing happened. Finally after three times of trying, the mike worked! And off he went. Most people might’ve gotten flustered by this. But Not Sam. He felt honored to be chosen to do such a thing but had only “looked it over on the way” to the park. Amazing.
Back to the skills competition, Bel Air’s Grayson Boone and Trey Hathaway took second place in the relay around the bases. Grayson and Trey were booking, clocking in with a cool 25.91 seconds. However the Dominican team came in with 25.84, according to Trey. So what was it like to get that trophy, Trey? “There was a lot of stuff going on. I had a lot of support on my side- my parents and everybody. And I felt glad to come in second place, we’re the smallest town out of all these teams and to come in second place, that’s awesome.”
Also representing the Braves in the Around the Horn competition was Sam Thornton, Tyler Woolsey, Nathan Salupa and Frank Volpe which tests your arm and accuracy. Although the boys didn’t win, they put up a decent showing.
Now on to the best part, the baseball action, where it is raw and unblemished: Bel Air plays Sunday at 2:30 at Memorial Stadium; Tuesday at 6 pm at Cal Sr’s Yard and Wed. at 8:15 at Cal Sr’s Yard. Playoffs start Thursday. All games are free and open to the public.
For more information visit www.worldseries.ripkenbaseball.com.