Every American Legion baseball game begins the same no matter where it's played with the recitation of the Code of Sportsmanship.
Generally, the pledge is handled by a player, but, in Tuesday's Region 6 American Legion Baseball Tournament championship, the code was read by umpire supervisor Joe Volpe.
The Code of Sportsmanship reads as follows:
Keep the rules
Keep faith with my teammates
Keep my temper
Keep myself fit
Keep a stout heart in defeat
Keep my pride under in victory
Keep a sound soul, a clean mind, and a healthy body"
I spent the better part of four days (my Saturday games were rained out) at Hutchinson Field in Hopwood watching -- and covering -- Region 6 tournament games, culminating in Uniontown's 14-7 victory over Hopewell in the title game.
So, I can state with reasonable certainty, those young men who played over the double-elimination tournament played by the code. Yes, there was chirping at umpires and occasionally, unfounded bouts of braggadocio by some players, but, for the most part, the young fellas who played the games played by the code.
One player that I feel epitomized playing by the code was Charleroi catcher Hunter Mamie. The Ringgold junior caught a lot of innings for Luke Mollis' squad, and Mamie ran out to his position and ran back to the dugout each inning he played.
Mamie had the look of a catcher, especially with the blowout of his britches below the pocket on opening day. And, with Charleroi in a bind in its last game against Hopewell, Mamie ditched his catching gear to be the guy throwing the ball instead of receiving. And, he did an admirable job for three innings.
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Another fella my dad would've enjoyed watching was Uniontown third baseman Cole Shearer.
Shearer, whose last year of Legion ball was saved with the opportunity to play with Uniontown, played hard, but always with a smile. The winners' bracket game against Brighton Twp. got a little chippy with some questioning of ball/strike calls and the aforementioned braggadocio after a caught stealing at third base.
Shearer was one of the cooler heads that prevailed, keeping his new squad on the task at hand.
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Shearer has truly made a career playing Legion baseball. He told me after the title game he mentioned to manager Brad Yohman when he started playing Legion ball "my mom had to drive me to games" because he didn't have his license yet.
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Seems the position most likely to be tagged "slick fielding" is shortstop, and the Region 6 certainly had its share.
Hopewell's Anthony LaSala certainly was a slick fielding shortstop, although he did boot a couple of easy grounders.
The same could be said of Uniontown's Ty Sankovich and Smithfield-Fairchance's Noah Mildren. When he played the position, Charleroi's Chad Behrendt was pretty solid, too.
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One of the most heart-pounding moments of the tournament had to be Center Monaca catcher Nick Marvin waiting for the throw to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning in the 6-5 loss to Smithfield-Fairchance.
Because as Marvin waited for the throw, Dylan Shea was bearing down on the plate in full sprint as he hoped to score the game-winning run on Jerrett Dempsey's single.
Shea is a big boy. Any contact at full speed (though to be avoided at all costs), would've sent Marvin through the soft fence into the bleachers.
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I was privy to the behind-the-scenes look at what happens during a tournament, and here's what I learned.
1.), Everyone is a manager, even though most of the guys sitting around are or were managers. The cool thing about baseball is there's a lot of second-guessing when it's not your head on the block.
2.), The lively debate on which is the preferred flavor of Slush Puppie so ably made by the wonderful concession stand staff. The leader of the discussion was Joe Bonadio, who joined Uniontown's staff when Connellsville was unable to field a squad this summer. Bonadio spoke from experience because he rarely did not have a slushy is his hand when not in the dugout coaching.
Watermelon did not receive high marks. (I agree. Watermelon-flavored items rarely taste like watermelon). The top of the Bonadio's list was Blue Raspberry (and I tend to agree after my limited experimentation.) Cherry received high marks, as did Bahama Mama. Cotton Candy and Lemon Lime received mixed reviews.
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That games were able to be played early Sunday morning is truly a testament to the hard work by the township workers and Uniontown team staff.
I was cringing under the canopy of the concession stand early Saturday evening through a lightning storm with heavy rains. I even witnessed a sky-to-ground lighting bolt on the way home.
Yet, the field was in great shape for four games Sunday and the remaining two days of the tournament.
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Kudos to region director Ron Popovich and Uniontown's staff and families for putting on a solid tournament that pretty much ran on time despite significant weather issues.
Such diligence likely means Legion tournament baseball will return to Hutchinson Field in the future.
Good for me. A trip Hopwood is far better than a trek to Beaver County.
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Hopefully, that means Legion baseball will survive in the future. I applaud all the efforts by the men, women and young men who will try to keep the tradition thriving.