Manchester, MD – So I went to bed with a huge smile on my face last night. That sweet, sweet boy with the big ears, Manny Machado provided Orioles fans with a walk-off two-run home run in the 13th inning to defeat the Oakland Athletics 8-6.
There haven’t been many of those nights this season for Orioles fans. With just a little over a month and a half left before the postseason begins, it’s also a kind reminder that summer is coming to a close.
I had a summer full of new and great experiences but unfortunately, those wonderful experiences all went by way too quickly. Usually how summer vacations work. Before the summer even began, back in April, I was fortunate enough to land a spot as a Team Reporter Intern for the 2015 Cal Ripken World Series. For those who don’t know, the Cal Ripken World Series is home to some of the best 12-year old baseball players in the world. The week long tournament takes place each summer at The Ripken Experience Aberdeen Powered by Under Armour in Aberdeen, MD. An absolutely breathtaking complex that Cal Ripken has provided for youngsters everywhere to come and have a big league experience, with several youth-sized fields that replicate major league stadiums. The largest of which replicates Camden Yards.
When I received the news that I was being offered a spot as one of the Team Reporters, I was ecstatic to say the least. I knew how special the Cal Ripken World Series experience was, having played at the facilities when I was younger and having seen the event continually grow over the years.
Spring semester came to a close and I was chomping at the bit to begin the internship. June rolled around and the Team Reporters were finally given their teams that they would be covering. I opened up the email document and saw that I would be reporting on Team Dominican Republic. Wow! The first thing that came to mind was that I was glad I wasn’t given a United States team. Not because I thought that would lessen my experience, but only because I was ready to take on the challenge. Having taken a few years of high school spanish, and having a mother who speaks fluent spanish (although she never taught me fluently, shame on you mom! Just kidding, love you mom!), I knew I would have my work cut out for me. So we were each assigned our respective teams, and off we went. By the end of June, the internship had officially started and we were each assigned weekly writing assignments. The international teams had to do a little more digging than the domestic teams but all together it was a great learning experience for myself since I didn’t really have any previous experience with composing feature stories. Digging deep and asking questions in order to find that compelling story in which to tell. Before I knew it, it was the middle of July and it was almost time for each of our teams to start arriving for the Cal Ripken World Series. The tournament was to be held from July 24 – August 1.
On July 23, each of the 18 teams participating in the Cal Ripken World Series and representing their respective regions or countries, were set to arrive in Baltimore at the Under Armour Headquarters. There each team would become familiar with the Under Armour brand and then receive their unbelievable uniforms provided for them by Under Armour Baseball. I arrived at the facilities before my team had and used that time to check out the facilities a little. I had visited the facilities a few months earlier for a school project, but what an amazing place. Finally, Team Dominican Republic had arrived. Well some of them. Half of the team arrived and I introduced myself to them and their families before the other remaining players arrived. Once they were all there, the employees at Under Armour did a great job of introducing the team to the headquarters before presenting them with their uniforms. They all immediately fell in love with their uniforms. It was a great thing to witness. After that I parted ways with the team and traveled to Aberdeen for Team Reporter orientation.
The following day, July 24, the festivities began. The day was filled with press conferences, skills competitions, opening ceremonies, and just an overall great atmosphere. I instantly knew I was in for a special week.
The next day, it was time to play ball. Team Dominican Republic suited up for their first game of the tournament against Team New Zealand. Can I just say, those New Zealanders are pretty awesome to talk to. Their accents are ridiculous. Ridiculous in a very good way! From that day on, Saturday, Team Dominican Republic would play a game each day until they concluded pool play on Tuesday. My tasks during each game were to maintain the team’s Twitter account making sure to keep fans up to date with game updates, photos, etc., conduct a post-game interview with the head coach and player of the game, and finally provide a game recap within an hour for the Ripken Website.
The boys truly excelled in pool play, going 2-1 (3-1 overall), with their one loss coming to Team Japan. A heartbreaking loss at that. They did well enough in pool play to advance to the International Semifinals and were to matchup with Team Mexico. Team Mexico steamrolled through pool play going undefeated, and beating each team they played with ease. The Dominican Republic boys knew what they were up against but didn’t care one bit. Each of the players as well as Manager Franklyn Munoz felt they had the talent to knock off Team Mexico. They played their hearts out and never once counted themselves out, but came up short 7-3. It was a tough loss but each of the boys knew they had accomplished something special at the Cal Ripken World Series. No one really expected them to make it out of pool play, due to the team’s performance in 2014, but they proved all of the doubters wrong.
From getting to know the boys (it was pretty tough since my spanish is weak and only two of the boys really knew english), to meeting and getting to know the host families, my experience at the Cal Ripken World Series is one I’ll never forget. I met and worked with some great people who I learned a lot from, and am very grateful to have been given the opportunity. I’ll be sure to remember each of the boys as I move forward with my life, and I wish each of them well with where ever life may take them.
To top off my summer, a few days later I traveled back out to Aberdeen with my girlfriend and went skydiving for the first time with her and her mom for her birthday! An absolute great way to round out an unforgettable summer.