Final teams arriving
August 05, 2012 - It's almost 2 o'clock in Johnstown and the final teams are beginning to arrive for registration. Once all the teams are registered, they will head down to the historic War Memorial Arena for the player's banquet and bracket drawing.
Rains have been covering the region today, but the weather forecast shows sunny weather for game day. Field conditions will be monitored tomorrow morning to verify that all fields can be used.
Glenn Fredericks, New Brunswick
The Matrix surprised the field in 2009 by defeating New Orleans on opening day and finishing as national runners-up. The past two seasons, however, have been more challenging for the Matrix, who have only 1 win in that time. Despite the loses, the Matrix always enjoy their trip to Johnstown.
"Anytime you get a chance to come out here and play, it's never a down year," said Fredericks. "It's never going to be easy because every team here can play ball and we just want to come out here and play hard and enjoy the atmosphere."
Fredericks says that his pitching and defense have been stellar this year and hopes his players can stay on a roll. Compared to last season, he believes the Matrix have a stronger team in Johnstown this year.
"It's the greatest tournament in the land," said Frederick. "I want to thank everybody; they do such as great job with this and for the guys coming out here for the first time the experience is just the best. You can't even explain it to somebody who hasn't been here."
Joe Salaniteri, New York City
Joe Salaniteri's Long Island Lions squad advanced past Brooklyn's Bonnie Rams in the Altoona Regional this year to qualify for the tournament. Although his team was shorthanded all weekend, Salaniteri's teams have always had special luck against the Rams.
"We have a knack," he said. "Things work well when we play them for some reason." Salaniteri used to play for Brooklyn's Youth Service League and says that from that time until now, he's never lost a game to the Bonnie Rams.
New York has seventeen players in town for the tournament, so they won't need to play shorthanded as they did in Altoona where only 11 players registered.
"They're very excited to play, they really are," said Salaniteri. He and his team are making their first appearance in AAABA play and so have no experience with the tournament to draw upon.
"I'm excited for this because it's got such a history," he said. "These kids played in a couple NABF championships when they were younger, but now that they're older, they appreciate it more."
MIke Gossner, Philadelphia
Last year was not a good year for the Bandits. They scored only 1 run (unearned) in their two tournament games. Veteran manager Mike Gossner is hoping that his offense will get hot early this week, but believes that defense is his team's strength.
For the first time in a long time, the Bandits had local AAABA rivals to compete against: the PA Warriors and Gallagher Baseball. The Bandits won the league to advance to Johnstown. Gossner has been marketing the AAABA to local communities outside of Philadelphia and has been gaining momentum in forming new teams in the region.
Philadelphia voted against the age increase ruling for next season. Gossner explained that he wasn't necessarily against the increase, but felt that it could work against the recent efforts he's put in to help expand the AAABA in Philadelphia since they were geared towards developing the 20U age bracket. He says he'll develop a new business plan to market the 22U teams to the community and hopefully we'll see more AAABA teams in the Philadelphia region.
Tony Perz, Columbus Hawks
There has been a change for the Columbus entry. Bruce Domineck's Braves team had problems assembling a full squad for the tournament and have been replaced by the Columbus Hawks. The Braves were the Columbus representative the past two seasons. The Hawks competed in Johnstown from 2003 to 2005 and were 2-6.
The Hawks players had only 6 days notice to prepare for the tournament "and we're a little light on players because of it," said manager Tony Perz. Columbus expects to field only 13 to 14 players and had only 10 in attendance for registration. Most players are in Johnstown for the first time, although Chris Mitko and Andrew Gronski competed for the Braves previously in the national tournament.
The Hawks were league runners-up this year after losing to the Gahanna Rockets in the finals. Perz says that while his team plays in a strong league, he is going to talk to his players about the higher level of competition in the national tournament.