The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

August 3, 2013

Martella’s vets in 4th tourney

Pat Gully has a unique perspective of the AAABA Tournament.

The Martella’s Pharmacy catcher will play in his fourth consecutive tournament beginning on Monday at Point Stadium.

Gully continues to live a dream with roots to his time as a bat boy with the former Johnstown Grays squad 11 years ago.

From bat boy to veteran backstop, Gully appreciates the opportunity.

“Some people play in the league four or five years and never get to play in the tournament,” Gully said. “Matt McMillen and I have been fortunate. It just goes to show we have a good core team to get us there and good coaching.”

Gully and McMillen, who is a veteran infielder and outfielder, each joined the four-tournament club this season. Martella’s advanced as the Johns-town-2 team after finishing as the local AAABA League playoff runner-up.

“I’m really lucky to be able to play four in a row,” McMillen said, echoing his teammate’s thoughts. “Some people play three or four years and don’t get a chance to play in the tournament. It means more to be from Johnstown, growing up around AAABA all of my life.

“When I was younger, I’d go to the games and look at them play. Now they (fans) are looking at me.”

Gully batted .321 during the regular season, his third as an All-AAABA League catcher. His ability to handle Martella’s pitching staff is an intangible appreciated by manager Chris Pfeil.

Gully has backstopped the local league’s past two Pete Vuckovich Award winners in Mike Mulvey (2013) and Derek Younker (2012).

“Pat came in as our backup catcher as a 17-year-old and developed into one of the best catchers the league has seen in a long time,” Pfeil said. “He has been our starter the past three seasons and takes total control of the game behind the plate. Our pitchers love throwing to him. He is one of the biggest competitors that has ever played for us.”

McMillen has contended with injury and health issues sporadically, both during spring ball with UPJ and in the AAABA League. But he still batted .247 and played a solid left field and shortstop.

“Matt has done it all for us the past four seasons,” Pfeil said. “He has played second, shortstop, third, and the outfield. He plays them all well. He is a tough out at the plate and has great instincts on the bases. His versatility has been crucial for us the past few seasons.”

As a former bat boy in the tournament, Gully actually has five tournament appearances. His uncle, Paul Knupp, is an assistant coach for Martella’s. Knupp also assisted Pfeil with the Johnstown Grays and managed the 1998 Wise Trailer Sales team that represented Johnstown in the AAABA Tournament.

Those family ties enabled Gully to participate in the Grays’ 2002 tournament.

“I grew up, when I was a little kid, following Wise Trailer Sales. I followed East Hills TV,” Gully said of two former Johnstown league franchises. “I know what a big deal it is.

“It gives you an extra incentive to play hard to get there when you’re at that age,” said Gully, who was 12 when he worked the Grays dugout. “Every little kid that comes down to the tournament, I’m sure they want to be in our shoes just like I was when I was younger.”

Those Johnstown Grays teams of a decade ago also impacted McMillen.

“Matt Petrowsky was one of my idols when I was growing up,” said McMillen of the former Johnstown slugger. “I watched his whole career with the Grays.”

Local baseball fans have watched McMillen and Gully mature on the baseball diamond.

They might get another chance too. Because of the rule change to allow 21-year-olds – and in some cases 22-year-olds – both Gully and McMillen are eligible to play next season.

“The best thing about both of them is that we have them back for another season,” Pfeil said.

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