By Ryan buck
Since its opening in 1995, Bob Cene Park has become a youth baseball haven every summer.
Today, the National Amateur Baseball Federation Senior Division World Series returns for the second consecutive year.
Sixteen teams from across the country are set in four pools where they will play each of the other three teams in their pool today and Friday.
The top two teams from each pool will advance into a single elimination bracket. The quarterfinals and semi-finals will be played Saturday preceding Sunday’s championship game.
Teams from as far as Brooklyn, N.Y., Houston, and Ontario, Canada, will meet three local representatives.
Astro Falcons, who are looking to defend their World Series title from last year, will join Creekside Fitness and Toyota of Warren as the three local representatives.
“The teams and the locations seem to stay the same, but the players change,” said third-year Astro manager Andy Timko, who guided his squad to the Youngstown Class B Championship earlier this summer.
Timko will rely on a veteran line-up featuring Zach Spangler and first baseman Chris Watschak, who earned a spot on the all-tournament team last season.
The team they swept in the Class B championship series, Creekside Fitness, will play twice today.
Terry Landis’ line-up, which fell in last week’s Connie Mack State Tournament final, also held at Cene Park, will lean heavily on starting pitchers David Lemasters and Seth Cox.
“We’ll be well-rested,” said Landis, whose team has been off since last week’s Connie Mack State Tournament. “Pitching is the key. If my pitching comes through, we’ve got a shot.”
Toyota of Warren manager Terry Dobson, after two days’ rest following a stretch of playing 27 games in 18 days, sees the NABF tournament as a new challenge.
“You need to maximize your usage of players a lot better [than in regular season play] and you have to manage,” he said. “You’ve got to hold people back and put them in certain situations than in other tournaments.”
No matter how well they match up with teams thousands of miles from home, the familiar confines of Cene Park will serve Astro, Creekside, and Toyota of Warren well.
“I’m tired of traveling,” Landis said. “Being home and sleeping in your own bed is a definite advantage. We love it.”