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Champs play here

July 22, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

WILLIAMSPORT - A banner above Potomac Street is the only obvious sign that Maryland's Little League champion soon will be crowned in Williamsport.

The significance is more apparent when you continue into town, turn left into Byron Memorial Park and drive past the pool.

Ahead on the right - as usual - is Walter Williams, carefully tending to Ebersole Field.

This week, Williams and Sam Miller spruced up the grounds and polished the rough spots for the state tournament, which begins Saturday and might run as long as seven days.

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"I want it to look as perfect as possible," said Williams, the president of Conococheague Little League, the tournament's host.

Eleven- and 12-year-old hitters and pitchers from across the state will battle on Ebersole Field, hoping to get a step closer to next month's Little League Baseball World Series in Pennsylvania.

What is annually a joyous event for the winners - and a tough gulp for the losers - will be somber, too.

Williams said the weeklong tournament will be dedicated to Zachary Beard, an 11-year-old killed July 3 in a head-on ATV accident near his home west of Boonsboro.

Proceeds from a 50/50 raffle will go to South Mountain Little League, where Zachary played, Williams said.

Zachary had a connection to Ebersole Field even before he died. His uncles' business, Botanica Service in Hagerstown, landscapes Conococheague Little League's fields, including Ebersole Field, Williams said.

During an interview Tuesday, Williams noticed a wasps' nest hidden in a fence. Miller, who umpires and manages equipment for the league, promised to take care of it.

Williams and Miller painted the foul poles and manicured the grounds this week. A player helped edge the grass.

Williams said a 40-foot-by-70-foot tent will be put up so the league can hold a picnic Friday evening. Always Catering, owned by Williamsport Councilman Monty R. Jones, will supply the food.

Susie Hoffman, the administrator of Little League District 1, said seven teams, each from a different region, will compete.

Maugansville will represent District 1, which covers 17 leagues in Washington, Allegany and Garrett counties. Maugansville's first game will be Sunday at 4 p.m.

With 12 players per team, plus coaches, managers and families, as many as 300 people may be on hand, she said.

"Families plan vacations around it," she said. "It's a big deal."

The state tournament rotates among the seven regions. National Little League in Hagerstown hosted in 1997, Hoffman said.

Diane French, the owner of A Touch of Country, a country decor shop on East Potomac Street, said she appreciates the deep meaning of the tournament.

When her son Dustin was 12 years old, he played for National Little League in the state tournament in Perryville, Md.

Dustin, 24, is manager of Rex TV & Appliance in the Martinsburg Mall in Berkeley County, W.Va.

Jim Horn of Tony's New York Pizza on East Salisbury Street said he helps the league by giving it a discount on pizza, which is resold at concession stands.

The state tournament may give his business a boost because concession workers usually tell customers where the pizza came from, he said.

Local campgrounds produce a stream of customers for Wolfes on the Square on West Potomac Street, but the baseball tournament might help, too, said Sue Slick, whose uncle, Jack Slick, owns the all-purpose shop.

"This is a big sports town," Sue Slick said. "We have a good population of young people here."

Loly Traver said Jack Slick, her brother-in-law, supports Conococheague Little League by sponsoring a team each year.

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