National pastime

Hagerstown little leagues celebrate opening day

Hagerstown little leagues celebrate opening day

April 13, 2008|By LARRY YANOS

Hagerstown's National Little League opened its 60th season Saturday by recognizing members of its 1950 and 1968 teams which advanced to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

Two other Hagerstown little leagues with a combined 111 years of service to youths -- American and West End -- also hosted opening-day activities.

Hagerstown American is starting its 59th year, while West End is beginning its 52nd year.

All three leagues featured ceremonies, followed by the actual start of the season.

"It was nice to acknowledge the players on this year's rosters as well as recognize the players from the two World Series teams," first-year National president Lisa Bennett said. "Our numbers are down a bit this year. We'll have 13 teams: Four on the major league level, five on the minor league level and four with tee-ball. We'll have 152 players participating."

The 1950 World Series team was represented by Eddie Penn while the 1968 representatives included manager Ron Phillips, coach Eddie Owens and players Curt Boyer, Mike Brashears, Dickie Haupt, Greg Haupt, Randy Miller, Kevin Parks, Mike Small, Mark Smith, Dave Wade and Tim Evans.


Other team members Larry Karn, Terry Kline and Stan Jones were not in attendance.

In addition, Joe Bachtell -- who filled a variety of roles at National from 1952 to 1985 -- attended.

"It was a wonderful group of kids," Phillips said. "Managing those guys and having the opportunity to compete in a World Series is an experience I will never forget. Also, the league has been blessed with some good coaches over the years, including Bill Gossard (who passed away earlier this year)."

Owens said the team had to overcome some difficult odds in 1968 to advance through the various levels and reach the World Series, where they lost to Santa Ana, Calif., in the first round when the tournament was single elimination.

"We didn't have that much of a drawing area back then," Owens said. "When you looked at the teams at the World Series, they were drawing from a much greater area than we were. We didn't belong there from the numbers' standpoint but we certainly had a terrific group of players who worked very hard to reach the World Series."

Mark Smith, who broke his leg while sliding into second base in the Eastern Regional championship game in Allentown, Pa., spoke to the large opening-day gathering on behalf of the World Series participants.

"I think three things stand out for me concerning the '68 team," Smith said. "Teamwork. There was no dominant person, everyone worked together. Secondly, the coaching staff. They worked hard for us and they really knew the game. Third, the support from parents and fans. We always had tremendous crowds at our games. The support and enthusiasm really helped us on the field. It was much appreciated."

Eddie Penn was the lone member from the 1950 squad to attend.

"I was a pitcher and an outfielder and it was a great experience getting to the World Series," Penn said.

"This is my second as league president," Hagerstown American LL boss Ted Casper said. "Our numbers are down a little bit from past years but we'll be fielding 12 teams: Five on the major league level, four on the minor league level and three on the tee-ball level. We'll have about 148 youngsters participating."

"This is our 52nd year and we've had a strong turnout of players," first-year West End president Wink Suder said. "We'll field 16 teams this year on the major league, minor league and tee-ball levels and we'll have a shade over 200 kids competing. We'll also likely add another tee-ball team in the upcoming days. That would take us to six teams on the major league level, six teams on the minor league level and five teams in tee-ball."

Suder was a manager in the West End Little League for 40 years before embarking on his duties as president.

"I've had great cooperation so far and some of the old-timers, guys who have coached in the league before, have come back to help the kids. That's a big plus for the league," Suder said.

Hagerstown City Councilman Martin Brubaker and Hagerstown Supervisor of Parks and Recreation Junior Mason attended all three events. Brubaker tossed the ceremonial first pitch at American and West End and offered some remarks at National, while state Sen. Donald Munson visited the American opening-day ceremonies.

Federal, Halfway, Maugansville, Sharpsburg and Valley little leagues also held opening-day festivities Saturday. Clear Spring, Conococheague, Hancock and South Mountain opened their seasons last weekend.

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