Cooperstown versus Cal Ripken experience for 12 u

Never been to Ripken, but did do Cooperstown as an asst coach on my son's team.  To tell the truth, I was dreading it.  First year team with a couple kids who had basically been nothing but a pain in the you know what in the weeks heading up to C-town.  I wasn't looking forward to babysitting these two kids all week.  Got there, the one kid was a completely different kid...no issues.  The other was his usual self.  Head Coach pulled him aside along with his parents the 2nd day and basically said "he has one more chance or you can come get him".  That seemed to do it.  No issues the rest of the week.  We were an average at best team, but put together a good run 4-2 during pool play to finish 34 for the week.  Beat a good team that played out of the Mets facility in FL in the first game of bracket play before our arms just ran out.  All in all, a great time.  My son and I have actually talked about taking a team of local kids when he's done with his college career.   I guess the difference I would see is that C-town is all baseball for the kids....no beach, nothing much to do in the park, but baseball, baseball and more baseball.  C-town is a nice area....a lot of the families stayed at houses on area lakes and had a "vacation", which is more like what Ripken would be. 

We went to Cooperstown, my friend took her son to Ripken Experience at the same time.  We shared a lot of texts.  We had 85 degree weather on hot days, and in the 50's at night.  She sent me videos of the kids in the shade looking absolutely rung out and the outside temp was 104.

I stayed in a very affordable house, while the coaches watched my kid, and relaxed a LOT!  She paid 2K for a hotel they were rarely in because there was one activity after another, and half the kids were playing burnt.

My kid still talks about the great time he had at Cooperstown hanging out with over 100 12u baseball teams from across the country.  Her kid...all he remembers is that it was hot, and PCB was better.

No doubt Cooperstown. Kids will talk about it forever, even if they lose. They play wiffle ball against kids from all over the country and hear about different parts of the country, since they all stay in the same area not with parents in a hotel. Plus you can go to Ripken at any age.

I just got back from Ripken Pigeon Forge with my son’s 12U team. It was the last tournament of our season and we had a great time! We debated back and forth amongst the coaches about going to Cooperstown and decided to do Ripken instead.

To start, our coaches were not thrilled with the idea of spending an entire week staying with the boys in bunkhouses sleeping on cots – I can’t say I blame them. These guys volunteer their time coaching the boys, they don’t need to be babysitters for a week!!! Another concern was cost. Cooperstown runs about $1000/kid, whereas we paid $425/kid for Ripken. The final concern was length of tournament. Another team from our organization went to C-town and it was a Saturday to Saturday affair. We arrived in Pigeon Forge on Monday and finished on Friday.

Ripken is less games, but you pay less. We played 6. If you make it to the championship game of your bracket, you play 7. I think in C-town if you make it to final, you play 10/11. The other team from our organization played 8.

The Ripken Pigeon Forge facility is absolutely beautiful!!! Turf fields, shaded dugouts and bleachers for parents, seating in cool locations overlooking the different fields, replicas of minor league and major league parks with unique features, like a hill in left center or a “well” in right-center. I will also note the fences at Ripken are in the range of 225 or longer, so we did not see a lot of HR. If you hit a HR at Ripken, it was legit. Cooperstown fields are about 200 feet from what I have been told. Makes for a lot of HR with 12u, but weak fly balls going out is not my opinion of baseball.

We went 3-3 and were an average team in Pigeon Forge. We played some really good teams with kids throwing 75+ from 50 feet who crushed us, along with everyone else, and we also played some weaker teams. I think you’ll find the same at C-town. It’s a matter of who you draw. What I did like is that we played teams from all over the country – an none else form our area - which was awesome for the boys. Umpiring was excellent!

We also went whitewater rafting, as well as to Smoky Mountain National Park while we were there. Families stayed in a cluster of cabins in the mountains about a 15 minute drive to fields. Kids and families loved it and made it more of a “vacation” feel than just baseball 24/7, which is the impression I get from C-town. It was also nice for the siblings who came with on trip to have something to do other than watch baseball or stay at fields.

Overall, I would highly recommend Ripken. It does not have the cachet of C-town – yet – but then again this was only their second season in Pigeon Forge. I like their model for tournaments and think the concept will continue to grow.

Hopefully, this is helpful.

I'd like to point out that the 1K for Cooperstown covers the boys room, food and laundry while they are there.   Cost for my rental was around $700, I split a split level house with another family.  My food was minimal and cooked at the house so I'd say my total investement was around 2K.

I will agree strongly that there is nothing for the little ones to do in Cooperstown.  I left my then 6 year old at home with dad and I took the boy.  That worked out great for me but if you have a team with a bunch of smaller siblings I could see that as being a plus for Ripken and a minus for Cooperstown. 

Funny this comes up now.  My 19 year old son and I were in Cooperstown last weekend for the HOF Induction, and he insisted on getting up early Sunday morning and stopping at the Dream Park.  He had such good memories playing there and staying with his teammates and coaches.  

I was an assistant coach at the time, and stayed in one of the dorms with 3 other women (1 other coach/mom and 2 female umpires).  The beds weren't cots, but they were part of a bunk.  

Son was 11 on a 12u team that went in 2005.   (Where has the time gone?)

I agree Cooperstown is all about baseball and not much else.  Compared to the Ripken tournament in Abeerdeen, Maryland (guaranteed 3 games) the team went to prior to the trip to Cooperstown, Ripken had much nicer fields though DreamsPark does a good job grooming the fields.  The best one at Abeerdeen was a field with the same dimensions as Camden Yards but at 2/3 the size with 70' base paths.  The other fields copied were Fenway, Wrigley and one other (I forget which).  The tournament guaranteed that each team would play at the 'Yard' at least once.  A very well run tournament though son's team didn't do well - I think we only won one game.

A big disadvantage of Cooperstown is there is not much in the way of hotel accomodation's and what is there is certainly pricey if you can get a reservation in time.   We rented a house in the next town over about 15 miles away for about $900/week - far cheaper than any hotel.  Had to mail in a $450 deposit (half the rent) a few months before arriving.  Other than the HOF there is not all that much to do.   There is a lake there if you want to go fishing/camping, but if you're there to watch your son play ball, there is not much time to do that.   The fields at Dreams Park are only 200 ft with 10 feet walls.  Yes, HR's are plenty, but doubles and triples not so much.  Plus the walls pretty much block any sort of breeze.  On a hot day it can get stifling.  The fan viewing areas are much to be desired.  I didn't care for them.  And watch out for the golf carts - the staff use them to cart water and supplies all around the facility.   One more thing - the barracks are NOT air conditioned so if gets hot (the week we were there it was in the 90's all week) the barracks can be brutal.   The week before it had barely been in the 70's.

That said, my son had a great time even though the team didn't do well.  Team only won one game in pool play and in the first round.  The big thing for the players is pin trading.   Our team provided personalized pin bags for the players.

The schedule at Dreams Park has teams arriving on Saturday to check in.   Arrival day is the only day vehicles are allowed close to the team barracks.  Once gear and luggage is unloaded, then vehicles must be moved out to the parking lot.  Games start on Sunday.  Two games per day Sunday through Tuesday with final pool games on Wednesday morning and the tournament starts Wednesday afternoon.  All but the Championship game is played Wednesday evening.  And they will get them in.  When my son was there a thunderstorm delayed the 2nd or 3rd round games for a few hours.  They waited them out and went back to playing.   The final rounds didn't complete until well after 1 am.  Friday is the Championship game.  Many teams check out on Thursday and don't bother with the closing ceremonies and Championship game.  As I recall the teams have to checkout by Friday morning.

Our team cost was about $11,000 (remember, this was in 2005) for 12 players and 3 coaches.  We did a lot of fund raising including a golf tournament.  So $1,000/player wouldn't surprise me.

Ripken facilities are flatly better than Dreams Park.  The hook in Cooperstown in wall to wall baseball with 35 or more states represented.  You get 6 games against teams from every region in country.  Typical trip is a game vs, CA, TX/FL MA/NY, NC/GA IL/WI/MI and a random Utah or Alabama. 

Ripken tends to be more regional.  In Myrtle Beach boatload of stuff including the ocean. Much more family trip and less intense baseball wise. 

As a Dad Cooperstown in the barrack was good a 10 an trying at times at12.  Babysitting sucked so kids got handed to mom and dad every day so coaches could get some family time.  

the funny thing is Dreams Park isn't the best place.

All-Star Village has Dreams beat in every capacity. the fields, the uniforms, the bunkhouses, the food, they have AC, they have a bar on site, they have a TV in the bunkhouse...have been to both and it is a no brainer.

We went to both with both of our boys.  I agree that Ripken has much better facilities and the cost was less for us.  However, both of our sons still get a dreamy, faraway look in their eyes when they remember Cooperstown.  Sure the weather can be iffy, the fields really aren't great and the barracks are downright medieval.  But there is something about that event.  Maybe it's the Hall of Fame, maybe it's the home runs, maybe it's the old fashioned feel of the place.   But it really was a special week for both of them and we would go again in a heartbeat if we had the chance.  

You can't top the Cooperstown all around experience.  I coached a team and stayed in the barracks one year and was a parent two years later.  Had a blast both times and would do it again if I could.  The experience for the kids where they're separate from their families and treated to 24x7 baseball in a safe environment is so unique.  They get to joke around with the umpires in the mess hall between games as they are a part of the experience, unlike what happens during the season.  You realize how much those guys love the game and the kids.  Some umpires from our area in Georgia would always interact with the team whenever they saw us.

You get to live in this little baseball bubble for a week, and unless you experience it, it's hard to describe.  The pin-trading was insane and the wiffle ball games and shower tag and other things they think of to pass the time with their friends and other baseball-minded boys is just special.  Can't get that staying in a hotel room with your parents at a normal tournament, even if it's in a cool area with lots of things to do.  Not saying those tournaments are bad as they generally are not.  They just don't deliver that special kid-focused experience they get at Cooperstown.

At the time, there was no doubt Cooperstown Dreamspark was the better and more memorable event for my kids, wife and I. We went to both places twice.  In defense of Ripken, they were just starting out and there was still a lot of construction going on 11-12 years ago.  

The second time I went to Cooperstown as a Head Coach.   Afterwards, I needed a vacation to recover from my vacation.    At the end of the week, it was about the smiles and experiences and there were a lot of those.  

My son really loved All-Star Village.  His team went 6-0 in pool and then 2-1. We are only an hour away from Aberdeen, so we've played there many times over the years.  Playing Cal Sr.'s yard is special for the players and the parents.  It makes you feel like your kid is in the MLB at the real Oriole Park.  The other Ripken fields there are great too.  At 13U, he played in the Ironbirds minor league park and the community college nearby has a very nice park.  But there is something about Cooperstown that makes it number one for me as well.

Went to Cooperstown with my son's team as an assistant coach 4 years ago.  It is true that the barracks' beds are not comfortable and it can get a bit warm early in the evening as there is no A/C.  Generally I thought the weather was awesome though! Contrary to what a few others have said about the condition of the fields, they were in great shape when we were there, particularly considering how much play they get.

The Ripken Experience is great as well, but it is tough to match the bonding the kids get staying together as a team at CDP.  Kids are allowed to be "checked out" to spend time with their parents during the week, but typically none want to go.  I can still see the umpire that came with us sitting on the floor of our barracks trading pins with the kids.

It was an unbelievable experience for the whole family and my son still talks about it.  It has been especially fun to hear him talk about his experience with his brother who is headed up with his team later this month.  Obviously, he loved the baseball, but he also remembers other things like whiffle ball and specific games that were in the arcade.

My younger son's team went to Ripken Pigeon Forge earlier this summer for a 3-day tournament but we have never been to the Aberdeen or Myrtle Beach facility.  As others have said, the facilities were unbelievable.  All turf fields that were replicas of prominent minor league stadiums and an unbelievable mountain view backdrop.  The tournament was very well run and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Maybe the week-long tournaments are different, but one stark difference I would point out are the championship games.  At the Memorial Day Tournament in Pigeon Forge, teams and their families cleared out after they were eliminated.  At CDP, all of the teams are still there and the stadium is packed, creating a very memorable experience even if your team is just watching. 

Whatever you decide, I am sure you will have a great time.  My recommendation is to do both if you can.  Maybe not a week at both, but perhaps a week at CDP and a long weekend tournament at one of the Ripken sites.

We did both this year and they are both great!  My son will remember Cooperstown more, but he did have fun at ripkin too.  Traffic to Cooperstown was much better (less).  The trading of pins is HUGE and my son had a blast doing that and talked to kids,umps and some adults that he would never talk to had it not been for the trading.  Cooperstown is a beautiful setting as well - in between two mountain ranges.  It was great weather for being the last week of July too.  A little humid during he day but cooler at night.  If you can only do one, Cooperstown would be it!

Also, some parents split a house and I payed $350 for the week.  We went 4-2 in pool and then (we were 42 seed) beat a 59 and 23 seed and lost to the 10 seed on playoffs.  My son can't wait for his younger brother to go so he can go and trade pins as well.  The town itself is amazing.  (some of the restaurants had so-so food and service.  The HOF was very cool as well.  I wouldn't trade that experience (for my son) for anything....

Let me start by saying I really love Cooperstown, the town.  It's an awesome place.  Double day café - awesome.  Shops - awesome.  HOF - awesome.  The fact that there isn't a whole lot to do - awesome (although fishing, boating, golf, etc. are all there).  I certainly could spend several weeks there over a summer kicking back and relaxing from this daily grind. 

Now, as for Dreams Park, consider me neutral.  If you have the opportunity to go, then go.  But you're life will not be destroyed if you don't.  It's actually a summer camp for baseball.  Drop kids off, pick them up in a week.  Kids love it.  I didn't much care for the short fences and the spectator areas.  I don't much care for the gestapo like mentality that if you have the wrong belt on you're banned for the week.  The staff does a good job getting games in -- we saw a lot of rain, but got 4 or 5 pool games played (yes, even at 1:00 am).  Scheduling kind of sucks in that there is downtime between games, so you can't really do a lot before it's time to get back to the park (I'd rather play back to back and have the rest of the day off).   

Now I will say this.  If you go with a good group of families, the experience can be so much better.   Our team wasn't really that way.  We had factions.  Nobody truly was friends - we don't talk/see to any of the parents after several years.  There is too much time and closeness not to be with people you like.  You can't go watch from the outfield - you have to sit right next to that crazy mom.  And if your coach is a tool, watch out.  Like anything, I guess good people make the trip all that much more enjoyable.     

 

I've done both. My oldest was on a new team and we were new to Travel Ball and ended up at Ripken.  

Late July I think. It was ridiculously hot and a very expensive trip.   We do high level major ball now and the experience back then was great but now I can see it was really just a tournament that we paid a boat load of $ for vs a team price.  Ceremonies etc. weren't that great.    We went .500 started in the losers bracket and made the semifinal.  Competition was perfect for that team at that time, high AA ball. It was so hot at opening ceremonies that kids were passing out on the field.  

Cooperstown Dreams Park this year and that was a special experience except that there weren't many good teams there.    Every pool play game was a 4 inning mercy for us.  Lost in quarter final to another decent team but of 104 only about 10 good teams there.  Kids had a blast staying in the barracks.  Our house on lake Canadarango was awesome and only about $1000 vs. $350 a night at Ripken.  All in all no comparison. 

If you don't have  ticket for dreams park just go to to All Star Village. I think it falls somewhere in between the two in terms of experience but if you've never been to either, I don't know how you'd know.  Also, they have beer (Drams Park is very strict and no beer at Ripken!)

LU 57 posted:

 

Maybe the week-long tournaments are different, but one stark difference I would point out are the championship games.  At the Memorial Day Tournament in Pigeon Forge, teams and their families cleared out after they were eliminated.  At CDP, all of the teams are still there and the stadium is packed, creating a very memorable experience even if your team is just watching. 

 

I wouldn't say "all" all the teams are still there.  A lot of teams are still there on Thursday because of the way it's scheduled but maybe 50% stick around, maybe 10% go to the championship game and the bugs there are so bad people don't stick around.  Buggiest place I've ever been. 

FWIW, my son liked Cooperstown Dreams Park so much as a 12YO, (even though he didn't hit a HR there and had a fever at the closing ceremonies) he went back for a week and umpired the summer between HS and College.   Had a ball both times.

As an adult and looking back, I wish I had added on a few days to explore the Fingerlakes area of NY.

We did a weekend Ripken tournament in Aberdeen, MD.  It was fun and staying in the Hotel there (Courtyard Marriott - looks like the warehouse at Camden Yards) added to the experience.   You just walk out the back doors and you are there.   His little travel team from 10-12U didn't travel overnight too much, so these two trips were highlights. 

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Goblue33 posted:

I've done both. My oldest was on a new team and we were new to Travel Ball and ended up at Ripken.  

Late July I think. It was ridiculously hot and a very expensive trip.   We do high level major ball now and the experience back then was great but now I can see it was really just a tournament that we paid a boat load of $ for vs a team price.  Ceremonies etc. weren't that great.    We went .500 started in the losers bracket and made the semifinal.  Competition was perfect for that team at that time, high AA ball. It was so hot at opening ceremonies that kids were passing out on the field.  

Cooperstown Dreams Park this year and that was a special experience except that there weren't many good teams there.    Every pool play game was a 4 inning mercy for us.  Lost in quarter final to another decent team but of 104 only about 10 good teams there.  Kids had a blast staying in the barracks.  Our house on lake Canadarango was awesome and only about $1000 vs. $350 a night at Ripken.  All in all no comparison. 

If you don't have  ticket for dreams park just go to to All Star Village. I think it falls somewhere in between the two in terms of experience but if you've never been to either, I don't know how you'd know.  Also, they have beer (Drams Park is very strict and no beer at Ripken!)

Can't beat staying in a house on a lake.  My wife and daughter stayed there with another couple that week (I coached, son played)....and loved it.  Had a jet ski along with a dock.  Wish I'd have stayed there instead of the barracks lol.  If you've never used a service like VRBO, look into it the next time you have a week long tourney.  Used it for a house on Lake Allatoona during the WWBA (LakePoint wasn't there yet, but it would be about 10 minutes away now) and also on Wats Bar Lake in Knoxville when we played in Battle in the South.  Split it with another family or 2, buy food at the grocery instead of eating out and it's a heck of a lot less money than staying in hotels.....and a lot more fun.

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