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Tournament namesake Williams finds youth baseball enjoyable

July 26, 2007|By JANET HEIM

SMITHSBURG - Despite a disability that requires use of a wheelchair or electric scooter, Abe Williams gets to most of the baseball games in Smithsburg's Cal Ripken League tournament each season.

He is able to drive his van to doctor's appointments, but chooses to ride his scooter the 1 1/2 miles from his home on West Douglas Court to the ballfield.

"I can't get it out of my system. I'm always down there watching games and talking to people in the league," Williams said.

A Smithsburg resident for 22 years, Williams, 75, helped organize the tournament for about 16 years. He began with Smithsburg Little Sluggers and helped with the transition to the Cal Ripken League in the late 1980s, he said.

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When Williams was voted vice president of the league in 1982, one of his responsibilities was running the tournament. He said he ran it for about 12 years as vice president, then continued to run it four or five more years after his term ended.

While he admits to being a baseball fan - which includes the Baltimore Orioles - Williams said his main motivation is the children.

"I got interested in it to keep kids off the street," said Williams, who has three children and three stepchildren. "I like doing for children, to make sure they're in a safe environment."

"I got interested in it to keep kids off the street," said Williams, who has three children and three stepchildren. "I like doing for children, to make sure they're in a safe environment."

It's that commitment to youth that resulted in the tournament being named after Williams in 1999. He remembers being called out onto the field along with then league president Gerald Frey and several other board members.

"I just felt it was time to honor him for all his hard work," Frey said. "It was after many years of dedication to the league and the tournament itself, all the hours making phone calls and lining people up."

After the announcement that the tournament would be called the Abe Williams Invitational Tournament, Williams was overcome by emotion.

"It really shocked me. It brought tears to my eyes, to tell the truth," Williams said.

A Korean War veteran, Williams was born and raised in Fiddlersburg.

He attended Smithsburg High School, but didn't graduate because he went into the service at age 17.

After serving as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division, he returned home and worked as a general maintenance man for the Hagerstown Housing Authority.

Williams said he's been on disability for 27 years because of his knees. In that time, he's had five knee replacements on his left and two on his right knee. A head-on car collision in 1996 further injured his legs.

Still, Williams is a lifetime member of the Smithsburg Ambulance Company and Smithsburg Fire Company and was a Maryland State Commissioner for the Cal Ripken/Babe Ruth Leagues.

"I keep myself busy," Williams said.

This is the final week for the tournament, with the 9- and 10-year-olds having their turn.

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