Sluggers' long balls to earn big haul for Marine

September 04, 2011|By BOB PARASILITI |

HAGERSTOWN — No matter the age, athletes are considered kids who have never grown up.

Softball players are no different. In fact, there is a lot of little boy still lingering inside many of the big boys.

That’s the aura that will bring some of softball’s heaviest hitters to Hagerstown’s Municipal Stadium on Saturday for the Greene Turtle/Softball Home Run Derby.

“We hear a lot of guys say they never got a chance to play in a real stadium when they were younger,” said Hub City Softball president Doug Levine, who is organizing the second annual event. “This is giving them the chance to live the dream.”

The dream is just to have a shot at ripping a softball over the wall for a home run. But there is a twist. Not only these hitters be swinging for Municipal Stadium’s fences, they will be swinging for our country’s defense.

All proceeds from the home run derby will be used to send supplies and comfort items to Marine Lance Cpl David Leford Jr., a Hagerstown native who is stationed in Afghanastan with 1/9 Bravo Company. Last year’s contest benefited Sgt. Justin A. Langlotz, a 2003 graduate of Washington County Technical High School, and members of 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, F Co. while they served in Marjah, Afghanistan.

Langlotz has since returned home and will be on hand to help out at this year’s derby.

“Guys will get together to talk stuff and show they can hit the ball,” said Pinesburg softball director Gary Lum. “Every one of them want that chance and they are all here to help the cause. But they are also here for the chance to play in this old-fashioned stadium and play in the same place where Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman played this year.

“Right now, this is a hot spot. Everyone wants to have a piece of Hagerstown.”

A total of 42 sluggers have signed up to compete out of the Maryland, Delaware, D.C. and Virginia region. That’s up from last year’s total of 37, but many hitters showed up on the day of the event, just like some are expected to do this time.

“This was a success last year and the response is up because the local guys have got the word out,” said Lewie Thomas, coordinator of the city’s recreation department, a co-organizer of the event and an avid softball player. “The players from the Baltimore and D.C. areas are coming back and bringing their friends with them. After last year, people are coming up and asking if we were going to do this again. If they aren’t coming to hit, at least they want to be here to watch.”

The event has picked up a number of sponsors. This year, a five-inning softball game will be played as a warmup to the contest at 5 p.m. The teams will don special uniforms — one side will be dressed in patriotic garb and the other will be wearing camouflage. The derby will begin 30 minutes after the game.

“It will allow everyone to get the feeling of playing in the stadium, but it will get them ready to hit,” Levine said.

Each hitter will get 10 swings during the first round of the Home Run Derby. The size of the tournament will determine how many will advance, which will last up to five rounds. The final round will feature the top five to seven hitters facing off for the title with cash prizes awarded to the top three finishers.

The sluggers will be swinging for glory, but the competition is only the backdrop for helping Ledford in the competition which will be contested on the eve of the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

Ledford’s whereabouts in Afghanistan is unknown even to his mother. He has been working as part of a special force which is guarding high-ranking military officials which was organized after the U.S. eliminated Osama bin Laden.

Admission is free to the event, but Levine said he hopes the fans will contribute to a fund to send Ledford supplies.

“Last year, people were walking into the gate and not dropping anything into the bucket,” Levine said.

Levine said items will be bought they find out what Ledford needs. Last year, proceeds provided things like baby wipes, baby powder, beef jerky, peanut butter and deodorant for Langlotz. The provisions will be sent to a central address and forwarded to Ledford.

“The message is local softball players are getting together to send something to someone who is defending our country,” Lum said. “The first time, this was an experiment that went right. This time, it is a success that will continue to grow.”

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