ABERDEEN — Matt Backert, the former director of Ripken Baseball Operations who oversaw the Ripken Baseball youth programs alongside Baltimore Orioles Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., has dedicated his career to teaching kids the American pastime.
Now the 2002 Rising Sun High School graduate is launching his own baseball program with the focus on recruiting area talent. Utilizing his experience from Ripken Baseball, Backert has formed the Maryland Baseball Club, which will deliver kids from Cecil and Harford counties the opportunity to learn how to play baseball “the Ripken Way.”
“I’ve been doing this for over a decade, so the time is right to venture out and ultimately try to do it the way I think it should be done,” Backert said. “First and foremost, develop kids into becoming the best possible baseball players they can be. The other thing is really instill the fun back into the game and get kids back to playing baseball. I believe that can be done through providing the best coaching that they can possibly receive and by also providing all the resources. That includes one of (if not) the best facility in Maryland, if not the East Coast.
“We’re providing something for everyone and covering everything a player will need to be successful at this game.”
Backed by former college players and high school coaches, Backert has established Maryland Baseball Club’s home base at The Ripken Experience in Aberdeen, where players will practice and play at the state-of-the-art complex that features replicas of the most celebrated MLB ballparks, including Camden Yards, Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium.
“Cal and Bill [Ripken] wanted to create that complex and create those fields that replicate major league ballparks. They wanted kids to feel what it felt like to play professional baseball and to walk on fields like Fenway and Camden Yards. For us, to have the opportunity to have our kids practice there, it’s almost taking that same philosophy and applying it with our program,” Backert said. “We started talking about getting kids excited about playing baseball and enjoying the game. I don’t believe there’s a better way to do that than to have them have that experience on a regular basis.”
The Maryland Baseball Club will hold tryouts for its 2018 spring and summer teams on Aug. 1 and 6 at The Ripken Experience. The program is open to five age groups: 9U, 10U, 11U, 13U and 15U.
Practices will generally take place twice a week in Aberdeen during the winter and spring.
“We believe so much in our instructional philosophy and how we teach the game that we truly believe there’s no better way to implement that than to start with the younger kids who maybe haven’t been influenced a certain way,” Backert said. “We also want to try to get kids who are just starting their baseball careers because, at the end of the day, we want to have the ability to take a 9-year-old and make sure that he continues to play baseball at 10 and continue to play baseball at 11.
“When you’re talking about ‘the Ripken Way,’ you’re talking about, at its essence, the way you play the game and the way you teach the game, from the fundamentals up. My background, being from there, I learned how to teach the game directly from Cal and Bill. Just from that experience, that’s a lot of what I carry into how I instruct, how I coach and, ultimately, how I want to operate and run this program. That’s a big reason why we’re starting with some of the younger age groups and building it that way.”
A Cecil County native, Backert’s target is the same area where he grew up playing baseball. Rising Sun won the state baseball championship in 2000—Backert’s sophomore year.
After graduation, Backert went on to play collegiate baseball at Pennsylvania’s Neumann University, joining Ripken Baseball shortly after he walked across the stage in 2006.
“I’ve always said there’s a lot of good baseball in this area. There was good baseball back when I played and there’s still good baseball. I think over the last decade, lacrosse has kind of come in and taken over a lot of the area around here, so, for me, there’s a bigger meaning of bringing back baseball,” Backert admitted. “I know when I was playing baseball for Rising Sun we didn’t have lacrosse. The majority of the kids in the spring played baseball, and I think that’s why baseball was so big between Rising Sun and North East and Elkton.
“Being from this area and my hometown, I want to be able to impact kids in the same area that I was impacted. Baseball played such a huge role for me, personally. It’s awesome.”
Follow Jordan Schatz on Twitter: @Jordan_Whig