Half of teams registered
August 05, 2012 - We're at the midway point of player registration and eight of the sixteen teams have registered: Johnstown, Flood City, New Orleans, Zanesville, Altoona, Youngstown, Baltimore, and Cleveland.
Bill Babin, New Orleans
This is the first time since 1969 that Joe Scheuerman is not accompanying his team to Johnstown. The Scheuerman family has been a staple at the national tournament since almost the beginning, but Joe was already committed to managing the American Legion Mid-South Regional in New Orleans.
"It's been really hard on me because this is only my fouth year and I've relied so much on the Scheuermans and their history with the tournament," said manager Bill Babin. His 2009 team won the national tournament and were runners-up last year. The Boosters team is returning six players from last year including shortstop Sam Carriere, outfielder Logan Jones, and third-year outfielder Sean McMullen. His ace pitcher, Randy LeBlanc, is a junior at Division I Tulane.
"I think we have strong right-handed starting pitching and we have a lot of good quality lefties in relief," said Babin. "I think the most important thing is how we're going to hit the ball. I think the key to tournament play is getting the bats hot."
The Recreation Department squad features players from University of Louisiana-Lafayette, University of Louisiana-Monroe, University of New Orleans, Tulane, LSU, and Loyola.
"We have every college in the state represented," said Babin. "We feel like Louisiana has good baseball and we're happy with our players. They've been working very hard and we're looking to get another chance in the championship."
Tim Norris, Baltimore
Defending champions Baltimore have had an up-and-down season in the high-caliber Cal Ripken Sr League. Manager Tim Norris says his team has lost 15 pitchers, mostly due to injuries, so his team is younger on the hill than usual.
"My regulars will do fine, but we got hit a little by injuries in the outfield," said Norris. "Hopefully our young pitching staff can put it together and give us a chance to win."
The headliner for the Orioles this season is Ryan Ripken, son of Baltimore Orioles' hall of famer Cal Ripken, Jr. Norris says that he thinks his team has had extra motivation this season by having the hall of famer in attendance at the games. Mr. Ripken is hoping to attend the national tournament, but may be unable to due to his schedule.
The roster also includes third-year players Dominic Fratantuono, Kevin Hockaday, and Bob Ruse.
"I'm hoping those guys will be leaders and show the younger guys the ropes and what it takes to win up here," said Norris.
Don Navtsyk, Cleveland
South Fork native Don Navatsyk has always known that the AAABA is a great tournament, but his players learned it first-hand last year. Cleveland finished fourth in the national tournament.
"We're pretty much the same team, but we're a year older, a year better, and a year more mature," said Navatsyk. He has 7 pitchers on his roster and several outfielders who can pitch which gives this year's Blizzard team more pitching depth than in 2011.
"We don't have anybody who throws 90 mph, we don't have anybody who's going to come in and strike out 10 or 11, but all of our guys throw strikes and they throw more than one pitch for a strike. Our motto is 'pitch to contact'. We want to keep pitch counts down, we want the the other team hitting the ball." Navatsyk is confident in his defense to retire batters.
The Blizzard have a full roster--but no pick-up players--in order to keep the team's chemistry intact. They finished 2nd in their league, trailing only a Toledo team stocked with 9 Division I players. Still, the Blizzard beat that team 3 out of 5 games. Navatsyk says that the only time his team lost was then they were missing players.
Bob Mingo, Youngstown
Bob Mingo has been coming to Johnstown since 1988.
"It's another family," said Mingo. "The way we've been treated here for years--myself, my family, and my players--is outstanding. We have nothing but great things to say about Johnstown and the tournament." Mingo has attended the tournament even in years when his team did not qualify.
The Ohio Glaciers compete in both the Youngstown AA league and the Tri-State Collegiate League and have played over 50 games this summer.
"We play well together", said Mingo. "If a certain couple players aren't doing well that day, it seems like the others pick up the slack. The biggest thing is the chemistry and how well they play together; that's the advantage for us."
Doug Pollock, Zanesville
Veteran manager Doug Pollock declined to comment for this article. His Junior Pioneers team returns once again for Zanesville after a runner-up finish in their COL playoffs. Zanesville was eliminated 0-2 in their regional this year.
Joe Faretta, Altoona
"[The players are] real excited," said coach Faretta of the Nittany Oil club from Altoona. "We had that forfeit on Monday and they were real excited to play on Monday, but they're geared up and ready to go. This is the opportunity you look for and the sky's the limit."
Altoona won their regional when New York City forfeited the championship game on Monday. The Long Island squad's players had employment obligations and thus they could not field a full team for the game. Altoona was 0-2 in the regional last season.
Injured players Braedon Pennington and Brandon Myers are healthy and Coach Faretta tells us that his team is at full strength and ready to have some fun.