The Short-Season A IronBirds play in Maryland's scenic Harford County, but it is the owner, not the lovely environs, that makes this Orioles affiliate so notable. Cal Ripken, Jr. purchased the team, previously the Utica Blue Sox, and moved them to his home town in 2002. They now play in Ripken Stadium, which sits across the road from Cal Ripken Sr.'s Yard, which hosts the Cal Ripken World Series. And the team is actually named for Ripken, Jr. as well. The IronBirds is a portmanteau derived from the nickname "Ironman," given to Cal during his streak of 2,632 consecutive games played, and "the Birds," which is how locals refer to their beloved Os. The name is also a reference to the planes that used to fly at the nearby Aberdeen Proving Ground, a U.S. Army installation. The team's on field hat sets itself apart by reminding fans of bird-themed teams - there are plenty of them - and that the avian can also be intimidating. Still, it seems inevitable that the team will eventually be renamed the "Fighting Ripkens." That hat will be awesome, too. [$27; milbstore.com]
Photograph by Michael Pirrocco
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