RIP­KEN MAY SELL IRONBIRDS STAKE:

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Luke Broad­wa­ter and David An­der­son lbroad­wa­ter@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/ luke­broad­wa­ter

Hall of Famer Cal Rip­ken Jr. is look­ing to sell his ma­jor­ity stake in the Aberdeen IronBirds, the mi­nor league team that plays in his home­town.

Hall of Famer Cal Rip­ken Jr. is look­ing to sell his ma­jor­ity stake in the Aberdeen IronBirds, the mi­nor league team that plays in his home­town.

The move comes af­ter Rip­ken sold off own­er­ship stakes in other mi­nor league teams in Ge­or­gia and Florida to fo­cus more on youth base­ball ac­tiv­i­ties, said John Ma­roon, a spokesman for Rip­ken.

Rip­ken and his brother, Billy, both for­mer play­ers for the Ori­oles, ac­quired the IronBirds in 2002.

“Bill and Cal want to main­tain their in­ter­est as a mi­nor­ity owner if they do find the right part­ner,” Ma­roon said. “They are very much com­mit­ted to their home­town. ... The fo­cus of the busi­ness is get­ting much more laser-fo­cused on youth base­ball. This is not a pub­lic sale or a fire sale. If we find the right part­ner, that’s when we’ll make the move.”

Cal Rip­ken, who di­vorced his wife, Kelly, in April, also is try­ing to sell his 25-acre es­tate in Reis­ter­stown for $12.5 mil­lion. Ear­lier this week, Rip­ken Base­ball an­nounced it would no longer host the Babe Ruth League’s an­nual Cal Rip­ken Ma­jor-70 World Se­ries for 11- and 12-yearolds at the Rip­ken Ex­pe­ri­ence in Aberdeen.

Ma­roon ac­knowl­edged that the World Se­ries de­ci­sion is linked to the Rip­kens want­ing to con­cen­trate more on the youth base­ball pro­grams, in­clud­ing those in Aberdeen. The Aberdeen com­plex hosts base­ball camps, tour­na­ments and other non­profit events, Ma­roon said.

“They def­i­nitely lost a lot of money host­ing that event,” he said of the World Se­ries, “and it played a role in the de­ci­sion, but was not the only fac­tor.”

Ma­roon said the Rip­kens will con­tinue to own and op­er­ate the com­plex in Aberdeen and sim­i­lar com­plexes in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Pi­geon Forge, Tenn. The Rip­ken Ex­pe­ri­ence Aberdeen is lo­cated next to Lei­dos Field at Rip­ken Sta­dium, where the mi­nor league IronBirds play their home games.

The IronBirds, an Ori­oles af­fil­i­ate, are the sole ten­ants of the sta­dium. Their lease is ex­pir­ing this year.

The team draws an av­er­age of a lit­tle over 4,000 peo­ple per game and has an an­nual at­ten­dance of more than 140,000. Pre­lim­i­nary talks have be­gun on a lease re­newal, ac­cord­ing to Aberdeen’s city man­ager.

Rip­ken Base­ball con­trols man­age­ment of the sta­dium, which also is used to host other ath­letic events, com­mu­nity ac­tiv­i­ties and par­ties.

Still, some in Aberdeen say they are con­cerned about Rip­ken’s de­ci­sions this week. The town of Aberdeen in­vested mil­lions to build Rip­ken Sta­dium, tak­ing on debt and post­ing losses. But the town counted on events at the sta­dium to help de­liver a boost to its im­age and de­liver a pos­i­tive eco­nomic im­pact.

For­mer Aberdeen Mayor Michael Ben­nett lamented that the Cal Rip­ken World Se­ries is end­ing af­ter 13 years.

“There’s just a lot of no­to­ri­ety for the city, for teams from all over the world to be here, and they know Aberdeen, Mary­land, is the Cal Rip­ken World Se­ries,” Ben­nett said.

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