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Abeles 'awestruck' at living the Little League dream

August 15, 2008|By DAN KAUFFMAN

When Bill Abeles Jr. began coaching at Federal Little League about 13 years ago -- when his oldest son, Will, began T-ball -- he probably never thought he'd be standing where he was on Tuesday evening with assistant coach and longtime friend Doug Hornbecker.

"Doug and I were on top of the hill above Lamade Stadium, a half-moon just coming up, the lights were on and Japan was practicing, which was very cool, very regimented like you'd expect from them," Abeles said. "Usually you're an outsider looking in, but now we're insiders looking out and we're both just awestruck at it. It's just an amazing experience.

"It's a dream come true."

Lamade Stadium is the home of the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. It's one of the most recognized fields in all of sports, as every year for about 10 days, millions across the United States and around the world watch a few dozen 12-year-olds play a game they love at an exceptionally high level.

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This year, millions will watch the 12 Federal All-Stars live out their dream. And Abeles will be right there, making sure the players enjoy every moment.

"My style is really just to perpetuate what a great place the dugout is," Abeles said. "The atmosphere of a dugout during a baseball game, it's a wonderful place to experience the game."

In a sense, Federal really has two managers. Hornbecker managed last year's team, which reached the Maryland state tournament and included five members of this year's squad -- Josh Barron, Mark Grunberg, Zane Schreiber, Andrew Yacyk and Ryan Byard -- with Abeles assisting him. The roles were switched this year.

Abeles could not recall when he and Hornbecker first met -- "He claims it was seventh grade at North Potomac Middle School. He has a better memory than I do," Abeles said -- but they both graduated from North Hagerstown High School in 1980, and the chemistry they have has rubbed off on the team.

"I had a great experience last year. He's a great coach and manager," Abeles said. "I was fortunate enough to be awarded the team last year and I knew I wanted him as an assistant. He was a natural fit.

"If I'm the mother figure, he is absolutely the favored father. He is very good with the kids. His sternness is a little different from mine and he's very popular with the kids. There's a chemistry with us as coaches, we both love the game and it's been a super experience having a childhood friend as a coach with me."

Abeles would not be living this dream were it not for the support of his family -- including wife Beverly and his children Will (19), Charlie (17), Maddie (9) and Kevin (7) -- and the staff at Wachovia Securities, where he works.

"This has pulled me away from four children who are very supportive, but it's a challenge and it puts a lot of burden on (Beverly)," Abeles said. "Before I accepted this manager's role, her and I had a conversation and I knew it was going to be a good group. If I was a single man, it would have been an easy yes, but I knew the time issue would be tough and she's really been great.

"I work at Wachovia Securities as a financial adviser, and it's sort of a family franchise with my brother David and father, Bill Sr. My staff has been just great. They love seeing my face plastered on TV. There's still clients and work to be done back at the office, and they've been very helpful."

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