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Ripken Bros. Hand Out Knowledge At 2nd Annual Ripken Select

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(Photo by Carlos Collazo)

ABERDEEN, Md.—Standing behind the batting cage on a crisp afternoon at the Ripken Experience Complex in Aberdeen, Md., Cal Ripken Jr. watched as 2019 SS Tremayne Cobb Jr. launched a ball deep into left-center field—coming just shy of hitting a ball over the fence on a stadium designed to be a replica of Yankee Stadium.

Laughing to himself, the 21-year major league veteran and Hall of Famer thought back to the first time he played in Yankee Stadium—now long gone and replaced with a field that isn’t quite so hard to hit homers in. He remembered the original field being deep in left-center as well. So, naturally, Ripken Jr. walked over to Cobb Jr., who’s committed to Hartford, to tell him about the experience and how he handled it.

Being able to use the experiences he’s gained over a long, successful career to help younger generations is not a new mentality for Ripken Jr. It’s something he was thinking about and putting in motion years ago, well before he called it quits as a player.

“The whole vision of bringing this sort of a facility here to Aberdeen was born when I was still playing. And then at the end of my playing career I had 21 years in the big leagues and towards the end in June I realized this was going to be my last year so I made the announcement. I made the announcement not so I could get all of these nice prizes on a farewell tour, but it was to answer the question what do you want to do next? We wanted to use our baseball knowledge to help other kids learn to play. Because we knew that we had the encyclopedia of baseball (from) our dad.”

This is the experience that 29 of the top high school infielders in the Mid-Atlantic area went through Friday afternoon, during the second annual Ripken Select. Ripken Jr. watched as players went through batting practice, offering tips here and there on situational approaches and mechanics, and diving more in-depth into the nuances of hitting whenever a player asks.

One field over is Bill Ripken, who’s working with infielders in his signature, much less somber, style. Enthusiastically screaming “Yes!” at the top of his lungs when a shortstop uses the proper footwork and glove technique on a backhand in the hole, or—equally enthusiastically—dogging a player who botches a throw or gets a bit too flashy with his movements before using that as a teaching moment.

“I had a dad who could start to shape some of the things I did—and it helped,” Ripken Jr. said to parents before the Ripken Select. “Most people don’t have that sort of direction. And really that’s the purpose of why we’re here today: We’re looking to help parents and kids alike to make good choices about where they go and what they do.

“This camp here is a really interesting camp because it goes back to the more serious sort of player. What can we do? And how can we provide help to parents? What happens when you go up the ladder when it gets time to recruit for college? And what are scouts looking for? And how can you best help your kids, if they have an aptitude, to take it a little bit further?”

While the bulk of the event is based around on-field instruction by the Ripken brothers on infield defense and hitting development, the Ripken Select also included talks from former Yankees strength and conditioning coach Dana Cavalea on wellness and fitness, Rochester coach Joe Reina on the college recruiting process, as well as a general Q&A with Ripken Jr.

2019 SS Jose Torres was one of the more polished and well-rounded players at the event, drawing praise from both Ripken brothers for his aptitude and barrel control in the batter’s box and his smooth defensive work with the glove. Torres, a North Carolina State commit, looked to soak up as much information as possible at the event.

“Try to take as much from it as I can,” he said. “Learn from the people who have been to that level. Try to take as much as I can back home. … What I took the most out of it was that energy (that Bill brings). Have fun playing. It’s not always about business, but having fun—it’s a game.

“This whole summer has been crazy, I’ve been all over. Met a lot of cool people, played at Fenway, played in Atlanta. Coming to this and ending here … it’s a good ending.”

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