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All-Stars, play ball!

July 25, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

WILLIAMSPORT - As Art Bachtell watched the Maugansville Little League All-Stars parade onto Ebersole Field Saturday morning for opening ceremonies of the Maryland Little League Baseball tournament for 11- and 12-year-olds, it was like the 1970s again, when he was a player instead of a coach.

"This really takes me back," Bachtell said.

In his youth, Bachtell played for the Smithsburg team. Now, he is one of the coaches for Maugansville, the District I representative in the seven-team tournament hosted by Conococheague Little League.

Also in the stands for the opening ceremonies was Ken Walker, who played in the Little League in Smithsburg and later in college at Salisbury, Md. Coming out Saturday was a little more difficult as well as emotional for Walker, who two years ago at the age of 53 suffered a stroke on Father's Day.

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"I was watching a practice game and I noticed I was talking slower," Walker said. He was hospitalized and after therapy and treatment, he still is speaking slower, has weakness on his right side and no longer can work.

But Walker, who has a son, Korey, 12, on the Maugansville team, said thinking ahead to the tournament and watching his youngest child on the field gave him something to hang onto.

"This has really made my summer," Walker said. When the parents of all the players were invited onto the field Saturday morning, Walker was right there behind his son.

Longtime Little League supporter Nelson Deal welcomed the teams from Maugansville, Rising Sun, Hughesville, South Caroline, East Frederick, Arbutus and West Salisbury. He pointed out to the out-of-town teams that Conococheague Little League is observing its 50th anniversary this year.

District I Administrator Susie Hoffman thanked Walter Williams, president of Conococheague Little League, for the beautiful field conditions for the tournament. Last September, heavy rains sent 3 feet of water across the field and deposited 8 to 10 inches of water in the concession stand.

But the field was renovated with the help of a group of volunteers.

State Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, congratulated Conococheague on its 50th anniversary.

"This championship tournament is good for kids and adults," he said. "Win or lose, you are all champions."

A state resolution was presented by Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington. Active in Little League since 1978, McKee also lauded the participating teams.

"There are 84 leagues in Maryland. You left 77 other leagues at home to get here," McKee said.

Sgt. Gene Danfelt, a U.S. Marine, led the color guard onto the field for the start of the state tournament. Danfelt played with Conococheague Little League.

"Gene postponed his vacation just to be here," Williams said.

Even though Maugansville doesn't play until today, the team members all were in attendance Saturday with their coaches and supporters. They also were dressed in their new uniforms.

"I'm excited about the experience," said Brad Kiracofe, 12. He said he planned to watch and learn Saturday.

Korey Walker admitted that just the chance to play in a tournament was enough for him.

For Jake Bachtell, 11, the fun is the thing. Having fun is part of the Little League pledge that was read at the ceremony Saturday.

Right fielder Zack Snodderly, 12, is looking forward to just playing the game.

In her remarks, Hoffman said she wished every player the same thing.

"I just hope all the players always carry the memory of this wonderful occasion," Hoffman said.

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