The Boswell Area Jaycees Baseball Classic certainly knows how to celebrate a milestone birthday.
The four-team high school baseball tournament turns 20 on Saturday, with four games scheduled at Community Park in Farrellton. The action begins at 9 a.m., weather permitting.
“We’ve had some really good coaches, good players and good teams coming in,” said Classic Director John Zadzora, one of the event’s founders. “It’s the longest running tournament in the area. The Jaycees enjoy it. We’ve had the (Boswell Jaycees) basketball tournament for 47 years and a Little League tournament since 1983. This tournament has added to it.”
Boswell Area Jaycees will bring back the original four coaches who were part of the 1994 event: Former Laurel Valley coach Jerry Page; former Greater Johnstown coach Dee Dee Osborne; Conemaugh Township coach Sam Zambanini; and former North Star coach Skip Spangler.
“Jerry coached 35 years, Dee Dee coached 25. Sam is still coaching and Skip helped start the tournament,” Zadzora said. “It’s special to have all four original coaches there.”
The coaches will be honored between the first and second games. North Star plays Forest Hills at 9 a.m., and Ligonier Valley faces Bishop Walsh at 11 a.m. The consolation is set for 1 p.m., with the title game at 3.
Former Pittsburgh Pirates 1979 World Series champion closer Kent Tekulve is scheduled to make an appearance during the preliminary games, Zadzora said. Tekulve currently is part of the Pirates TV broadcast team. Teke has been part of the region’s baseball scene in the past, speaking at two AAABA Hall of Fame banquets and participating in a dedication ceremony for the Hall at Point Stadium.
“The tournament means a lot to the team and the community,” said current North Star coach Chris Evans. “We typically have a large turnout supporting us. It’s been a pretty decent show the last few years.”
The itinerary is set, but the weather might not cooperate. Forecasts throughout the week predicted wet weather.
In fact, the Boswell event should be celebrating its 21st year. The 2005 tournament was entirely wiped out by rain on consecutive weekends.
Greater Johnstown and North Star share the Boswell Jaycees Baseball Classic record five titles. North Star is 19-19 all-time, and the Trojans are 13-4. Richland has four titles and 12 victories, and Conemaugh Township won twice and has a 16-17 record.
“The best high school game I’ve ever seen was when we played Laurel Valley in a 1-0 game. We beat them in nine innings,” Township’s Zambanini said of the first-round game in the inaugural 1994 tournament. “(Conemaugh Township pitcher) Rick Matsko threw all nine innings for us. There were several times during the course of the game where we thought we had the game won with a single up the middle. But (Laurel Valley’s) Steve Peterson was their shortstop and he robbed us.”
Rain eventually “robbed” Conemaugh Township and Johnstown of the opportunity to win the 1994 title. The championship game was postponed with Johnstown leading 2-0 in the second inning.
“A lot of the success is due to the tournament organizers like John Zadzora,” the Cougars’ Evans said. “It’s great to see the amount of support local businesses and families have given to us. It’s a reflection of the community and how much they care.”
The Boswell Jaycees event won’t be the only tournament held Saturday.
The Portage Spring Classic will enter its 15th year at Haschak Field.
Penn Cambria and Chestnut Ridge will play at 9 a.m., with host Portage and Southern Huntingdon to play at 11 a.m. A skills competition precedes the consolation and title games at 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.
“This all started in the late 1990s with the Portage Jaycees program, which has been disbanded since then,” Portage veteran coach Larry McCabe said. “We decided to continue the tournament. We always look forward to it.”
McCabe said the skills event has become as much anticipated as the games.
“We like to always add a little flavor with the skills competition,” McCabe said. “We have a fastest runner in 60-yard dash, the best throw from the outfield and the home run derby in between the second and third games. The home run derby, three guys from each team get to compete against each other and hit home runs. The teams have fun with it. The parents have fun watching it.”
Two area softball tournaments will be held Saturday.
The Northern Cambria Tournament will be held at the NC South Complex with Bishop Carroll facing Northern Cambria at 9 a.m., and Conemaugh Township playing Cambria Heights at 11 a.m. The consolation and championship games each will be played at 1 p.m. on adjacent fields.
The Penn Cambria Tournament will be played at Mount Aloysius College. Greater Johnstown and Penn Cambria meet at 9 a.m., with Bishop McCort and Central Cambria to play at 11 a.m. The consolation game is at 1 p.m., with the title to be decided at 3.
Of course, all the schedules listed above could be scrambled by inclement weather, which, unfortunately, is another spring tradition.
Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/masty81.