BABE RUTH BASEBALL Youngstown has a regional reputation
Three age-group teams are gearing up for another trip.
By PHIL NOVAK
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
Have you ever seen the T-shirts that read, "Baseball is Life -- the rest is just details?"
They must have been talking about Youngstown's Babe Ruth League baseball.
Since 1972, Youngstown teams have won 31 state championships, three regional championships and one world series victory.
"It's almost unheard of. I don't know of any other team in the state that's had the kind of success we have," said Al Franceschelli, president of the Youngstown League and a coach on the 15-year-old all-star team. "It's a whole different ballgame when Youngstown kids show up."
Now, three more Youngstown teams -- the 13, 14 and 15-year-olds -- will play in Ohio Valley regional tournaments beginning Friday. The 13-year-olds play in Marinette, Wis.; the 14-year-olds play in Eau Claire, Wis.; and the 15-year-olds play in Mattoon, Ill.
"I think one of these teams is going to the series. I'd love to see all three go," Franceschelli said. "Boy, that would be something, huh? Three teams going to the series representing Youngstown?"
Chief rivals: But fierce competition stands in their way. Nine states are represented in the Ohio Valley regionals, and Youngstown's chief regional rivals the last three years have been teams from Kentucky and Indiana.
"They're tough like us," Franceschelli said, "and it always seems they're right there with us."
Babe Ruth League baseball, celebrating its 50th anniversary, always produces top talent, Franceschelli said. But when it gets to the regional tournament, only the best of the best are on display.
"You'll see outstanding pitching," he said. "You'll see them pitching upper 70s to lower 80s at 15-years-old. It's going to be a war when you get there. But Youngstown kids are tough kids, and we play tough baseball.
"When Youngstown shows up, the other guys know they are in for a dog fight."
Roy Guerrieri, manager of the 15-year-olds, is already eyeing a world series bid.
"We're expecting to breeze through the regionals," he said. "I think we've got a really good team this year, and I think we have a shot."
And Guerrieri, who has coached for three state championship teams in 12 years with the Babe Ruth League, is getting his boys prepared for the long run.
"We practice every day on cuts and different situations, [and] we do a lot of batting," Guerrieri said. "At this level, it's repetition, repetition, repetition. The more they know, the better they are."
Fundamentals are key: That's the approach taken by the 13-year-old manager Jim Satterlee.
"Fundamentals," he said, emphasizing "a good work ethic at an early age and everything revolving around the team concept. They work really hard at every level in Babe Ruth League, and obviously it's working. We've got three state champions."
Satterlee, a Babe Ruth coach for seven years, led his 1998 team of 14-year-olds to the regional championship, but there wasn't a world series yet for that age group.
"They started it the next year," he said. "But hopefully we can get to the world series this year. I expect good things from them in the regionals."
There's still plenty of tough, furious baseball left to play, but it's just the type of baseball Franceschelli likes to see: Youngstown baseball.
"We don't sugar coat anything in this league," he said. "We just play hard baseball."