Aberdeen IronBirds History

The BallParkGuide.com Aberdeen IronBirds History
by Malcolm MacMillan
  • Cal Ripken, Jr. bought the team in 2002
  • Team's alumni list includes Nick Markakis
Cal Ripken, Jr., who has owned the IronBirds since 2002, is honored with a statue outside the ballpark.

The Aberdeen IronBirds have played in the New York-Penn League since the 2002 season. The franchise, which is owned by Baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr., was brought to the Baltimore area after Ripken purchased the Utica Blue Sox of the NYPL in February of 2002. The team's name, obviously, is a nod to Ripken's "Iron Man" nickname. The IronBirds logo features a jet fighter with Ripken's number 8 on its tail fin. Ripken's plan was to put a Minor League Baseball team in the town he grew up in, as well as build a multi-diamond complex for youth baseball. The Ripken Professional Baseball Association is run out of the same complex that the IronBirds call home.

In 2002, the IronBirds were managed by Joe Almaraz and finished 31-45. That season, 1996 Cy Young Award winner Pat Hentgen, who played for the Baltimore parent franchise at the time, had two rehab starts in Aberdeen. In their second year of operation, the IronBirds finished with a .500 record and had a roster that included future Major Leaguers Nick Markakis, Jerry Hairston and Adam Loewen. After two sub-par years in 2004 and 2005, the IronBirds finished 41-34 in 2006 and were managed by longtime Major Leaguer Andy Etchebarren. That year marks the team's last campaign in which it finished above .500. Since then, the team has fared no better than 36-39 and has yet to win an NYPL McNamara Division title.

Before being moved to Aberdeen, the Utica Blue Sox had a modern history dating back to 1944, although the most-recent incarnation of the team began in 1977. For the first four years of their existence, from 1977 to 1980, the team was affiliated with the Toronto Blue Jays, followed by an independent period and affiliations with the Phillies, White Sox, Red Sox and Marlins through 2001. Decades earlier, the Blue Sox were a farm team for the Phillies between 1944 and 1950.

Notable alumni

Zach Britton
Jerry Hairston
Adam Loewen
John Maine
Nick Markakis
Nolan Reimold