Washington baseball fans are super excited about their Nationals, who are in first place in the National League East. But there are other baseball teams around Washington to get folks excited this summer.
The Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League starts play next week. Ten teams made up of top-flight college players will play almost every night for the next two months. The games highlight good, old-fashioned baseball played with wooden bats instead of the metal ones kids that use in youth, high school and college baseball.
The games are perfect for kids to watch. Ticket prices are very reasonable: Some teams even let kids in free if they show up in their baseball or softball uniforms. Young fans can get right up close to the players and the action. At some games, kids chase after foul balls, work the scoreboard and help around the park.
The Ripken League began in 2005, and it promises to be even better this summer. One of its teams, the Bethesda Big Train, finished last summer rated the No. 1 summer-league team in the country by Perfect Game, a national baseball publication. So now better players want to play in the Ripken League. “We are getting more players from the power conferences, such as the [Southeastern Conference],” Adam Dantus, the general manager of the Big Train, told me recently.
There’s also a new team in the Ripken League. The D.C. Grays will play at Gallaudet University, the college for the deaf and hard of hearing in Northeast Washington.
If you like baseball history, as I do, you will love the Grays. First, the team will play at Hoy Field, which looks great with its new turf surface. The park is named after William Ellsworth “Dummy” Hoy, who played major league baseball for several teams (including Washington’s Senators, Statesmen and the original Nationals) between 1888 and 1902. Players gave Hoy the mean nickname of “Dummy” because Hoy was deaf and could speak only in a squeaky voice. Still, Hoy batted .288 and stole about 600 bases during his 14-year career.
The Grays are named after the Homestead Grays, the legendary Negro League baseball team from the Pittsburgh area that played many of its games in Washington during the 1940s. The Grays were a powerhouse that featured such African American stars as outfielder “Cool Papa” Bell and slugging catcher Josh Gibson at a time when black players were not allowed to play in the major leagues.
So find the Ripken team that is closest to you and go. It should be easy: The teams play in Alexandria, Herndon, Rockville, Silver Spring, Vienna and Waldorf as well as Bethesda and the District. (Your parents can check out the game schedule at www.calripkenleague.org).
The Nationals are playing great, but they are not the only baseball team around.
Fred Bowen writes the sports opinion column for KidsPost. He is the author of eight books for kids about baseball, including the picture book, “No Easy Way: The Story of Ted Williams and the Last .400 Season.”