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Federal coaches get their 'icing on the cake'

Abeles, Hornbecker to be honored as state's amateur baseball coaches of the year

Abeles, Hornbecker to be honored as state's amateur baseball coaches of the year

February 18, 2009|By DAN KAUFFMAN

Six months later, Bill Abeles still has a hard time believing he helped guide the Federal Little League 11-12 All-Stars to the 2008 Little League World Series.

"I'm still amazed," Abeles said. "I'm sitting here in my office looking at a poster my wife bought for me and it says at the top, 'Little League World Series,' and it has me standing there with my hairy mug. I walk into my office and wonder, 'Did it really happen?' It seems like just yesterday that it all happened."

The memories will come flooding back to Abeles -- the team's manager -- and coach Doug Hornbecker on Saturday, when they are honored as the Amateur Coaches of the Year by the Maryland State Association of Baseball Coaches during a banquet at the warehouse next to Orioles Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore.

"I was giving Bill a bit of a hard time, saying, 'How can you win a Coach of the Year award when you were the manager?'" Hornbecker said. "It's just another one of those niceties that came from having a nice group of kids. They're the ones who get the credit from most of us."

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Abeles and Hornbecker were nominated for the honor by Fred Kreiger, a former Boonsboro High School baseball coach.

"I've known those guys for a long time and have seen them work with kids. They exemplified the spirit of what Little League baseball should be about, the way they talked to the kids and conducted themselves," Kreiger said. "When you see some of the other coaches, you could see it was a little different the way they approached things."

"When Fred called me, I was very, very flattered," Abeles said. "This whole coaching thing, when people said, 'Hey, Coach Abeles!' ... I had to stop and realize people were talking to me, so this is icing on the cake. I'm very flattered by the award and both of us very much realize it's the good play and chemistry of the team that got us the award. It wasn't a lot that we did."

Abeles, who managed each of Federal's three World Series games while wearing a microphone for ESPN, earned rave reviews from many in South Williamsport, Pa., for his positive encouragement of the players.

"We never forgot that they were 12- and 13-year-olds and never forgot we were all in a very new environment and were very inexperienced in that environment," Abeles said. "We had two months with them and it really was a learning curve. We knew what we wanted to do and they worked very hard in practice. Some of them had been with me for five years, but it took a little while to build the chemistry and trust to the point that they felt, 'Hey, these coaches of ours know what they're doing.'"

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