Bob Cene Park is site for 18U World Series
By Greg Gulas
Ten teams will compete in the NABF 18U World Series that gets under way today at Bob Cene Park.
Included in this year’s field are two local Class B entries representatives — league champion and automatic qualifier Baird Brothers and runner-up Astro Falcons.
It’s the second consecutive year that Baird Brothers has advanced three Class B teams to World Series play (18U, 16U and 14) while Astro Falcons has qualified five teams to the same tournaments.
Overall strength of the league and competition its teams play is the key, according Scott Ruark, league president.
“To me, this is beyond words because on display is our talent level from top to bottom,” Ruark said. “I might sound partial, but I honestly believe that our summer league is as good as any in the country.
“While players get plenty of exposure during the season when it comes to college and professional scouts, advancing to the World Series presents an even greater opportunity and platform for them to exhibit their skills in front of even more scouts in attendance,” Ruark said.
Baird Brothers finished runner-up to Brooklyn (N.Y.) Bonnie Paws while Astro Falcons advanced to the semifinals during last week’s sophomore (14U) division World Series at Cene Park. Youngstown Class B’s Roth Brothers also advanced to the semifinal round.
Junior division (16U) play also begins today in Toledo with Baird Brothers and Astro Falcons among those competing.
Baird Brothers enter senior division action on the heels of Monday’s emotional 1-0 win over the Falcons in the league title tilt.
Manager Don Pletcher is no stranger to a World Series title, having won the 2014 senior crown with Ohio Glaciers. Astro manager Andy Timko has his Falcons primed to defend their crown.
Pletcher said Scott Baird is everything you envision in a sponsor.
“When we came to this organization we wanted to do things a little differently, wanting good players both on and off the field,” Pletcher said. “Players who want to have fun.
“That fun transfers over to winning and while we have players with talent, we also have a group that doesn’t give up,” he said. “Cliff Phillips is our general manager and Scott lets us do our thing, providing the necessary funds in order to make us successful.
“It’s a two-way street in that he does well by us, but conversely we do well by him,” Pletcher said. “Baird Brothers is a quality company and we feel that we have quality players representing them.
“I like when umpires tell us that we have a class group. Plus, we’re a staff that has been together and really enjoy working with the players.”
Players to keep an eye on include: Travis Perry; Youngstown State recruits Jeff Wehler and Andrew Shivak; Boardman’s Coleman Stauffer, a Mount Union recruit; and Dom Bucko.
Dave Stauffer is manager of Baird’s 16U squad which features Grant Metzger, Brandon Fleeger, Travis Harvey and Andrew Vance.
“It’s not about the wins or losses as much as it is about getting our players to appreciate a love for the game,” Stauffer said of Baird. It’s the passion that Scott has and he wants us to pass that on to them,.
“Astro Falcons have set the bar really high so the other teams need to recruit and develop players in order to follow suit,” Stauffer said. “Good programs produce good players and with the recent success that we have enjoyed, players are now calling us. The future definitely looks bright for us.”
Baird’s 14U squad was managed by Matt DeSalvo and featured Brennan Kilpatrick, Trey Pancake, Seve Cantini, Dylan Dominguez, Austin Vogt and Jacob Gehring.
“Our team was built around travel baseball when they were younger, so right now we feel like we have a great feeder system in place,” DeSalvo said.
As a sponsor, Baird could not be more pleased with the success that his teams have enjoyed the past two seasons.
“It was Cliff that got me into this and for that I cannot thank him enough,” Baird said. “It has been really, really fun watching all three teams enjoy the success that they have the past couple of seasons.
He credits his late father, Howard “Howdy” Baird, as a driving influence for his sponsorship.
“My father was big in the Canfield Baseball Club and a member of their board,” Baird said. “He always did it for the kids and that’s exactly why I’m in it.
“It’s to get them much needed exposure and hopefully get them to the next level of play,” Baird said. “My father would be thrilled at what has unfolded and that is why it has all been worth it.”