Minor Treats: Opening Night at Ripken Stadium

The Aberdeen Ironbirds celebrated their opening night on Friday. Live music, crabs, on-field entertainment and even an arcade were available to get Ironbirds fans excited for the 2011 season at Ripken Stadium.

The ballpark itself is one of the highlights of an Ironbirds game, sporting a unique design and even a crab restaurant. Ripken Stadium opened in 2002 and has sold out every home game since the Ironbirds began play there.

The Ironbirds staff was among those excited about the season’s first game.

“It’s Opening Day! Time to get excited,” one vendor shouted to coworkers before the gates opened.

Mascots Ferrous and Ripcord were a big hit with fans, as well. Whether they were taunting visiting players from atop the dugout or handing out freebies to young fans, the gray birds’ antics were a great source of laughs throughout the evening.

Ripken Stadium seemed to have perfect spots for anyone to watch the game. Many adults were found at Bo Brooks Crab Shack in right field, while their kids (and some of the younger-at-heart adults) could be found playing games and enjoying the arcade in left field.

The Ironbirds are the Short-Season Class-A Affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles in the New York-Penn League. This means they only play about 75 games each season, compared to the 140 games most other minor league affiliates play.

Short-season affiliates of MLB teams are typically ideal for college players drafted in June. This allows the players to finish up their college seasons and begin their professional careers without having to join a team mid-season.

Fans were especially excited to see two local players, Austin Knight and Joe Velleggia, make their professional debuts. Knight attended the Boys Latin School of Maryland and Velleggia attended Calvert Hall. Both were standout baseball players at the Baltimore high schools.

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