Baseball can take you to some special places, said Gaithersburg Giants (Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League) infielder Brandon Greim, who along with seven teammates helped Team Maryland to a 12-3 win over Team DC/Virginia in the Cal Ripken League 2019 All Star Classic on July 10. Two months ago, the rising University of San Francisco sophomore shortstop had never even been on the East Coast.
“My coach (at San Francisco) called my roommate, Harris Williams, and me into his office and was like, ‘You’re going to Maryland to get some reps,’” Greim said. “I had no idea what to expect, baseball-wise, or even what (this area) was going to be like. But honestly, it’s been such a wonderful experience. My host family (Tom and Karen Graham) is awesome and they have a 12-year-old son (Aidan) who loves baseball.”
Since its inception in 2005, the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League, an amateur summer wooden bat league with six teams across the Washington Metropolitan area, has been the stomping grounds for hundreds of future Major League Baseball players. The two-month league, which is perennially considered one of America’s best summer collegiate baseball leagues, has provided some of the country’s top talent with an atmosphere that not only promotes growth within their games, but instills in them the importance of community involvement and their role in expanding the game.
“To have this opportunity to coach Division I kids at the level they are and see them progress and then play on TV the year after they’ve been with us, it’s really cool,” said 11th-year Giants coach and Quince Orchard Athletic Director Jeff Rabberman. “It’s a fun thing to be a part of their baseball lives and hopefully give them a good experience.”
Injuries and inability to capitalize on scoring opportunities have hindered Gaithersburg (13-18) during the regular season, but the Giants, who are in fourth place with nine games to play, will start with a clean slate when playoffs kick off at the end of the month. And if they’re able to put everything together in the same game, they “could be unstoppable,” said third-year Giants pitcher and Jessup native David Hutchinson (Millersville University).
Infielder Cade Doughty, who was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 2019 MLB draft but opted instead to sign his letter of intent to play for Louisiana State University in 2019-20, is tied for second in the league with a .354 batting average and stands in fifth place with four home runs. The Giants have also been bolstered by a strong pitching staff, led by 6-foot-9 rising University of Kentucky sophomore Ben Jordan, who boasts the Cal Ripken League’s best earn-run average (2.70) and third-most strikeouts (36). Southpaw Thomas Burbank (University of Texas, Austin) has struck out 35 batters.
While the Giants do have their sights on performing well down the final stretch of the season and into playoffs, the summer league is about much more than winning a baseball championship.
“Growing up, I looked up to the older guys playing baseball in high school, so I love seeing little kids out there watching us,” Hutchinson said. “They see what we do on the field and they can take it to their own games. I’ve seen some of the same kids for the last three or four years, and they’re getting huge!”
In addition to using the summer league as an opportunity to develop as baseball players—be it younger players who are looking to break into the starting lineup or upperclassmen hoping to get drafted—Cal Ripken League games allow for athletes to be seen by MLB scouts. Greim, Doughty, Jordan and pitcher Nick Parker (Coastal Carolina) were among players selected to represent the league against teams from the Southern Collegiate Baseball League, Valley Baseball League, Sunbelt League and the Florida Collegiate Baseball League at the Southeast Prospect Collegiate Showcase hosted by the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, North Carolina July 15 and 16. Rabberman was named as an assistant coach.
“(Playing for the Giants) has been something special,” Greim said. “(Rabberman) is a competitor, that’s for sure, and wants us to win. But he also wants to see us grow. He knows our potential, so if we aren’t living up to it, he’ll get on us. He cares about all of his players.”