The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

May 4, 2014

MIKE MASTOVICH | City game serves more than rivalry

Most likely, Larry and Betty Pfeil will dress conservatively Wednesday night at Point Stadium.

The Johnstown couple won’t don Bishop McCort’s crimson red and gold, or Greater Johnstown’s Columbia blue and black.

“We’ll just wear neutral clothing,” Larry Pfeil said. “I’ll probably wear something Pirates or Steelers. Same with my wife. They did get T-shirts for the Strike Out Cancer fundraiser. Hopefully it will be warm enough to wear those.”

OK, so the Pfeils aren’t vying for a spot on the cover of Vogue or GQ.

But they’re mindful of the dress code because their sons each hold head coaching positions with the city’s two rival baseball programs.

Chris Pfeil is the veteran at Bishop McCort, where his Crushers won a state championship two years ago. Kerry Pfeil is in his first season as Greater Johnstown’s head coach after spending eight seasons as Dee Dee Osborne’s assistant.

“For our family, it’s definitely something special,” Chris Pfeil said. “Not too often are you going to see two brothers coaching at rival high schools in the same town. We’re excited.”

The Crushers and Trojans will play a doubleheader in the traditional City Game. The first pitch is set for 4:30 p.m., with the second game to start around 7 at the Point.

“Words can’t even describe what this means,” Kerry Pfeil said. “The two city schools playing down at the Point. Two guys who grew up in the city and played in the city leagues. ... It means a whole lot to represent the Johnstown community in that type of atmosphere and raising money for cancer awareness.”

The doubleheader has added significance. Both schools will participate in a Strike Out Cancer event to raise money for the American Cancer Society in honor of cancer survivor Jeremy Adams, a senior on the Crushers baseball team.

McCort will be the favorite with a veteran 10-4 squad. The Crushers have a group of battle-tested players who’ve been part of deep playoff runs the past two, and in some cases, three, years. Players such as Nemo Trexler, Justin Vardian, Brad Coleman, Nathan Neiderhiser and Cameron Rock are among the mainstays.

But Greater Johnstown has plenty of talent on a youthful roster that has shown improvement. The Trojans feature one of the area’s top players in Grant Noon. Some underclassmen such as Jeremy Updyke have made an impact the past two seasons. The Trojans upset a highly-regarded Richland squad earlier in the season.

“The rivalry between the two teams is always special, and they’re always tight games,” Chris Pfeil said. “I have a lot of respect for the way they do things down there.

Kerry has done a great job with the kids this year. He’s going to be an excellent high school coach.”

“The transition has been wonderful,” Kerry Pfeil said. “Our Johnstown kids have totally accepted me and my coaching staff. They’ve put forth a tremendous effort learning the game and seeing the game. They’re 100 percent respectful.”

Respect for the game is an attribute the Pfeil brothers inherited from their father at a young age.

“Without a doubt my dad was my biggest supporter and biggest critic growing up,” Kerry Pfeil said. “He’s always instilled values in me that I can always do better. He incorporated a lot of tough love on me. By him pushing me and challenging me, he has taken me and opened up doors for me in my life that I never thought were possible.”

Larry Pfeil, 64, is among those unsung coaches who have impacted young lives over the years. He coached in the Greater Johnstown Youth League and Arbutus when his sons were younger. Later, he had two different stints in both the City Pony and City Colt leagues. For the past 16 years, Larry Pfeil has served as GM of the AAABA League franchise that now is Martella’s Pharmacy and formerly was the Johnstown Grays managed by Chris Pfeil.

“He’s put his whole life into amateur sports whether it was baseball or other sports,” Chris Pfeil said. “He is one of those unsung heroes in the community that dedicates their lives to kids.

“The one thing our dad taught us was how to play the game hard and how to play the game right,” Chris Pfeil added. “We owe so much to him. There was never a time that we weren’t at batting practice or playing catch in the yard. He pushed us. He never allowed us to make excuses. He always kept the game fun but he was demanding and always pushed you to do your best.”

Tonight, the father will get a chance to see his sons and their baseball teams compete on the field and contribute to charity off it.

The City Game and Point Stadium provide the baseball-perfect setting.

“Both kids are extremely dedicated,” Larry Pfeil said. “You can’t root for either one of them but you root for both.”

 

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