August 05, 2012 - All sixteen teams have registered for the tournament and are getting ready for the bracket drawing tonight. The only major news was the Columbus Hawks replacing the Columbus Braves.
Rick Berryman, Livonia
Last year, the Cobras eliminated the Rams in the final week of the Livonian baseball season to advance to Johnstown where they finished 3rd. This year, the Rams won their final two games against the Cobras to force a one-game playoff, which they also won, and so the Michigan Rams return to Johnstown for the first time since 2009.
Manager Rick Berryman has had plenty of experience in Johnstown dating back to his days playing for Detroit Adray in 1965 - 1967.
"Our kids are battle-tested," said Berryman, "because they're playing against [college] freshmen and sophomores." The Rams compete in a 22U league.
"Our strength has been very good pitching," he continued. "We've had very consistent, good pitching and our pick-up players enhanced our overall pitching." Berryman added pitchers with his pick-up spots since the tournament used 9-inning games compared to the 7-inning league games most teams play. He also added much-needed bats through pick-up players to improve the team's offense.
"We were fortunate to experience the Zanesville Regional and did very well. The players and pick-up players had a chance to bond and become one unit." The Rams swept through the regional, allowing only 1 run (unearned) in 2 games.
"Hopefully we can do well and represent Michigan well again."
Todd Zasadil, Chicago-Metro
The Elgin Aces are a new team this year and represent the competitive Chicago-Metropolitan franchise. Coach Todd Zasadil was here last year with Mike Schultz's Des Plaines Patriots squad. This year, Zasadil is the manager and Schultz has come along as a coach. Players Harry Vickers and Kyle Kapka also have national tournament experience.
"I was here last year with the Patriots, so I know it's an awesome experience," said Zasadil. "We're just excited to come out and play and put our best foot forward. Hopefully we can do well and get the guys good experience against high-quality competition."
The Aces finished 5-games over 0.500 this season but had an up-and-down season that included several injuries. The offense was inconsistent, but the pitching was strong.
"We can pitch," said Zasadil. "Chris Bobo (Illinois Weslyan) is one of our top pitchers and we've got Luke Holm (Wabash College) with us. We've got a pretty good pitching staff top to bottom and that's going to carry us through."
"I'm just going to tell them to play and have fun," said Zasadil. "It's a good stage to show off your talents, so just go have fun and play ball like we know we can."
Zak Mayo, Schenectady
The Schenectady Eagles lost in the semi-finals of the Altoona Regional last year, but manager Zak Mayo was still pleased with his team's performance.
"It was definitely not a disappointing regional," he said. "We did very well and I was very proud of my players." Mayo believes that his team's chemistry is their strength. They have added only one pick-up player for the tournament.
"I'm always happy with the way the team comes together and the way the team gels," said Mayo.
"We have a couple pitchers coming back from last year (Patrick Riley and Ben Brown) and I'm very confident in them and in what they've done. Stephen Brown and Conner Johnstown both add great dynamics to our pitching staff," said Mayo.
While many of the players on the Eagles squad are in Johnstown for the first time, this is also Mayo's first trip to the national tournament.
"I'm excited," beamed Mayo, "and you can see it with the smile on my face. I'm definitely excited about this tournament. I've heard nothing but fabulous things about it."
Schenectady registered at least 1 win in 14 of their past 15 tournaments. The franchise's best finish was as runners-up in the inaugural tournament.
Mike Mayden, Chicago-South Shore
The Satchel Paige All Stars from Chicago's South Shore have had a sporadic existence in the AAABA. This is the team's first appearance in Johnstown since 2006. They have not won a national tournament game since 1995. Manager Michael Mayden is hoping that the recent years away has given his team a chance to rebuild for the future.
"We've kind of been in limbo the past couple years, reorganizing and getting ourselves better from top to bottom," said Mayden. This year's team is very young and has no AAABA experience, but they have traveled to Ohio, Virginia, and Tennessee for games.
Coach Mayden says his team has been inconsistent due to their young age, but they look forward to gaining experience from the tournament and to give the kids a highlight that will live with them for a lifetime.
"We're going to be a little young this year, and we're down some of our key players who didn't make the trip, so it'll be more of an experience for them and next year we'll look forward to coming back a little stronger and more competitive," said Mayden.
"We just want to thank the AAABA and Johnstown for this great opportunity.