By JOHN BASSETTI
Paul Hammond has hit all the right buttons this summer: first, as manager of the Ohio Glaciers team which won the Class B League’s new minor league division, then, most recently, as manager of the Youngstown 14-year-old PONY All-Star team, which opens world series play on Friday night in Washington, Pa., against Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico.
It means plenty to the teens on a team composed of players from the Ohio Glaciers, Glacier Blue, Physical Action Therapy and Astro Falcons.
But Hammond prefers to put the emphasis on the less tangible.
“I hope the kids realize how fortunate they are to have Cene Park in our area,” the manager said of the facility where the 14-year-olds played home games.
Hammond is appreciative of the effort of his team, six of whom were players on his regular-season Glaciers team that won the B League’s newest and youngest age-group before adding others to form the all-star squad.
The Youngstown team has gone 7-0 in a regional and zone tournaments, to qualify for the series. They outscored opponents, 68-34.
Ohio Glaciers players are Alec Hammond, Hunter Snyder, Mark Passarello, Dom Lipari, Tommy Cannon, Davey LeMasters.
Action Physical Therapy’s three all-stars are Austin Brunstetter, Chase Thurber, Sage Cantini.
Glacier Blue’s player is Eddie Crump and Astro’s representative is Brandon Chamberlain.
Youngstown is the host area North representative in the 10-team, double-elimination tournament, which begins Friday and is scheduled through Aug. 20.
Hammond explained that Youngstown’s upper bracket is loaded.
“With Mexico, the Dominican Republic and the West zone, as well as Asia-Pacific with a bye, it’s going to be an uphill battle.”
If Youngstown beats Mexico in their 8 p.m. game Friday, the local team would play Monday night against the winner of Asia-Pacific/Dominican Republic.
A loss would relegate Youngstown to a 5 p.m. Sunday game.
The bottom bracket includes host area South, Washington, Pa.; North zone, South zone and East zone.
“The kids are excited and it should be special because this is PONY’s 60th anniversary,” Hammond said of opening ceremonies and other festivities that include an alumni game of champs from 50 years ago.
Joining Hammond as co-managers of the all-stars are Tod Thurber of APT and Rob Fuller of the Astros.
While teams are allowed 15 players, Hammond will take 11 and possibly find his bench emptier than the opponent’s.
“We wanted 15, but with football and golf and all the complications, some kids, especially pitchers, needed to shut down rather than develop sore arms.”
But he added: “This gives kids more opportunity to play.”
Alec Hammond, Crump and Brunstetter are left-handed pitchers and Passarello, LeMasters and Chamberlain are righties.
“All six have all pitched in one or two games,” Hammond said of their PONY tournament mound time.
“We’ve been mixing pitchers around and have had a lot of success with it,” said Hammond, who praised the involvement and support of Class B president Scott Ruark.
“We have a very nice facility and, after having been elsewhere, we appreciate what we have in our own back yard.”