The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

August 11, 2012

Finalists, venues gives tournament a fresh look

Cory Isenberg

JOHNSTOWN — With New Brunswick downing Cleveland 5-2 in Saturday’s championship game at Point Stadium, the 68th annual AAABA Tournament is in the books.

The matchup between the Matrix and the Blizzard was the first time since 1965 that there was a guaranteed first-time champion. None of the big four (Baltimore, New Orleans, Washington or Detroit) were involved in the title game.

“Off the top of my head, I‚Äąthink it’s a great thing for the tournament,” Executive Director Bob Wolfe of Zanesville said about this year’s championship pairing. “Fortunately or unfortunately, we’ve had some great champions. This is not knocking Baltimore or Washington or New Orleans that have won more than anyone else, but over the years, it’s always been a good thing when kind of an outsider comes in and wins. Of course, I think the nice part this year, is the fact that we had two of them.”

Wolfe also thought that the weather was ideal for the tournament.

“One of the things that makes our job tougher is when the guy up above drops those raindrops on us,” Wolfe said. “That changes times and fields and it doesn’t matter what we decide to do, someone else has a better idea. I think this is my 35th year on this committee, so I’ve heard it all. I really think it was a great tournament and we had some really good games. Actually, we had no games cancelled and that’s the part that we really, really like. We got slowed up a couple times, but that’s baseball.”

Wolfe had praise for Point Stadium and the fields in the surrounding area.

“The fact that you have this wonderful stadium here, you can play a few minutes after it quits (raining),” Wolfe said. “We are always looking for the best possible fields that we can use and we work very closely with the Johnstown Oldtimers. When we play at some of these sites for several years and people have been very helpful to us, we feel somewhat obligated to repay them. We were very happy that we were able to use Somerset and Westmont this year.”

Oldtimers President George Arcurio III said that the feedback was tremendous regarding the new fields.

“The Westmont field I think is a definite for next year,” Arcurio said. “We hope to have two games at the Somerset High School field next year. The business community was very happy with us taking games out there. It’s time we expand and move the tournament into other areas.”

Unfortunately for Johnstown fans, Berkley Hills Renegades lost both of their games and Martella’s Pharmacy registered just one win, but it was still a good tournament according to Arcurio.

“We all wish Johnstown had done better, but our crowd stayed stable even when Johnstown was no longer in,” Arcurio said. “Our goal is to break even and, if we can do that, that’s the key. We try to put on a first-class tournament and that’s what we attempted to do, from opening night to the very end.

“It was good to see other teams getting into the championship round. The crowds were enthusiastic.”

The Oldtimers also get plenty of help from the citizens of Johnstown as well as the business community.

“With the concert series this year, we are getting younger people into the stadium to watch the game and that’s very important because we want them to know about the AAABA, what the tradition and the heritage of it is,” Arcurio said. “We all grew up with it.”

A rule change goes into effect next season with athletes being age 17 to 21.

“Time will tell, Wolfe said. “It will be interesting to see next year just what effect. I hope that it has a plus effect on us and makes us a better tournament with better ball players.”

Money well spent?: The baseball press box at Point Stadium looks as though it is going to need some refurbishing.

Many of the tiles were no longer attached to the floor and there was just a general mess overall in the box on Saturday during the AAABA title game.

Cory Isenberg is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat.