BRING THE RUCKUS : Third version of the Rippey Ruckus baseball showcase begins this weekend
By Brandon Hurley
Baseball connects generations. It’s one of the sport’s greatest characteristics. Which is why Rippey’s baseball history never left, it merely required a re-introduction.
A group of dedicated enthusiasts re-built the only field in town, and with it, the love blossomed. The cozy, wooden green grandstand with a cornfield as its back drop scream Iowa. The project had to be done. Walt Anderson Field in Rippey is Greene County’s own version of baseball heaven, a revitalization which has gained significant steam over the years.
Next weekend, April 23-24 and the following weekend April 29-31 mark the third edition of the Rippey Ruckus, a unique baseball showcase amongst a throng of passionate fans.
Thirteen games over a five day span will usher back memories for all involved. A passion project come to life.
“There was so much buzz and interest in last years Ruckus, they wanted to come back and do it again but more were interested,” Bruce Thome, an event organizer, said.
The excitement and success of last year’s adult baseball tournament is why organizers decided to split the Rippey Ruckus into two weekends for the 2022 version. Athletes and fans from all over the Midwest descended on the rural Greene County town for some baseball fun. It was everything event organizers could have dreamed of.
“The 2021 Rippey Ruckus went well,” Thome said. “(We) learned some things about hosting an event and coordinating everything. (There was) so much interest in playing in Rippey that we had a fall event the first Saturday of October, too.”
Thome and company refuse to let the dream of baseball die. Rippey’s tradition dates back nearly two centuries. They feel they’re only getting started. The boys of summer are back for good.
“Rippey is a baseball town. They have been playing here since 1880,” Thome said. “Walt Anderson Field opened in 1940. Myself, I grew up in a small town in north Iowa, so I get the small-town feel.”
That connection to rural baseball pushed Thome to make a difference.
A full decade has passed since the town of Rippey last hosted a high school baseball game, when East Greene High School merged with Jefferson-Scranton to form Greene County. The transition left Rippey without its focal point. The legend Mel Murken and his friend Merle Jackson grew tired of seeing their cherished field go to waste. They wanted to spruce it up.
Murken’s background is all baseball. He coached the Rippey baseball team several decades ago and also went on to become a Hall of Fame manager for Ankeny High. His passion for Walt Anderson Field motivated Thome, as their hobbies and love for America’s oldest sport merged.
“Thanks to Mel (Murken’s) desire to maintain the ballpark, it’s made it much easier to manage,” Thome said. “I would have loved to play ball for Mel. He’s turned into a good friend and the (Rippey Ruckus) is a way for us to honor his commitment to baseball in the state of Iowa and his many years of service.”
The crew in Rippey spent the last year spiffing up the ballpark. They added four truckloads of crushed limestone to the infield as well as other areas of the park. They also recently cut out sod and added dirt around the home plate and dugout areas. The grandstand was repainted last year, and the foul poles received a new coat of paint. The Rippey Baseball Commission plans to add new signage as well as a new coat of paint to the dugouts. The work is not done. They want Walt Anderson Field to become the gem of west-central Iowa, and its well on the way.
Thanks to the success of the renovations and the Rippey Ruckus showcase, high school baseball will make its long-awaited return this summer. Several high school games will take place throughout May and June.
Likewise, the M.I.N.K. Summer Collegiate League will play five games in June and July at Walt Anderson Field. Word of mouth and a little bit of publicity was the perfect pitch to other baseball enthusiasts, Thome said.
“Last year after the story aired on WHO13 there was quite a few comments on Twitter and some high school coaches had commented that they would like to play there too,” Thome said. “So I thought, why can’t we? I asked Mel and he thought that would be great. Some even sent me messages so we said, let’s do it.”
Next weekend’s Rippey Ruckus games begin at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 23 with the Legends against the Des Moines Blues. There will also be games at 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday’s match ups begin at 10 a.m. followed by a contest at 12:30 p.m. Players are traveling from as far south as Oklahoma and Kansas as well as others from Missouri and Minnesota.
Interested spectators can follow along leading up to the Rippey Ruckus by liking the Rippey Baseball Commission Facebook page and the @RippeyBaseball Twitter page.
The first high school game in Rippey in 10 years will be a doubleheader on May 23 between Nevada and Perry. Carroll and AC/GC will square off June 11, Kingsley-Pierson faces Ogden June 11 while Hinton and Clarion-Goldfield-Dows will do battle on June 18.
June 11 will also feature a M.I.N.K. league game between the Sedalia Bombers and the Des Moines Peak Prospects at 7 p.m. Other dates of M.I.N.K. games will be June 13, July 2, July 14 and July 17.