Blogs > The Best of Don Seeley's Columns

Former Mercury sports editor Don Seeley passed away in June 2013 from a heart attack. For more than a decade Seeley wrote about local sports. Featured here are his columns that were previously printed in The Mercury.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Mid-Atlantic tourney a bright spot in stormy Legion summer

American Legion baseball, at least in the Berks, Chester and Montgomery county areas, will get a much-needed dose of drama – or excitement, if you prefer – when the Mid-Atlantic Region Tournament gets under way this morning at Bear Stadium.

Yes, as the game’s envious whiners always remind anyone willing to listen, Boyertown is hosting yet another postseason extravaganza. Funny, no one’s filling up the state or national headquarters’ mailboxes with bids to host any tournaments themselves (other than Boyertown and West Lawn, according to a few sources). Other than NorChester and Spring City, which have held and successfully run their share of tournaments, there really aren’t any other American Legion organizations with the manpower that gears up summer after summer with the energy and commitment like Boyertown and West Lawn does. And other than NorChester and Spring City, there really aren’t any other facilities like Bear Stadium and Owls Field, either.

Then again, all that’s a moot point when remembering Boyertown – like it has so often in the past – earned its way into today’s opening round by finishing second in last week’s state tournament (hold off that runner-up finish argument, too, because Pennsylvania happens to be among the Top Five nationwide in total number of American Legion teams and has been sending its runner-up into national regional play for 30 some years or more.

But bringing Bristol over from Bucks County and Blackhawk in from the western side of the state to fill out the regional lineup card with the Bears, New Jersey’s top two teams – including longtime rival Brooklawn – and state champions from Delaware, Maryland and West Virginia, well, what a great way to end the summer baseball season that has otherwise been one of disenchantment and disappointment.

And there has been enough of both, too, locally as well as throughout the state.

More than enough.

Like PIAA-Class AAAA state champion Conestoga as well as Pottsgrove not fielding teams in the Chester County League; like Gregg Post – once one of the most successful teams in the entire state with a storied history that dates back nearly 80 years – dropping out of the Berks County League, itself as respected an alignment as any in the state (or country, perhaps) before all those teams’ mass exodus north to the former Schuylkill County League; and like Silver Creek dropping out of the Bux-Mont League. And State College, which had made a name for itself on the national level, not having a team this season was absolutely disheartening. Plus, hearing how a couple of very proficient managers, and a few of their very capable assistants, have already stepped down (or plan to soon officially call it quits) has been rather upsetting as well.

So, yes, it’ll be quite refreshing to sit in on one, two or more of this week’s Mid-Atlantic Regional games.

Fans will likely see good pitching, good defense and, yes, good hitting.

What a great way to end a summer of baseball (except for those fortunate to get yet another five days of it all next week at the American Legion World Series down in Shelby, N.C.).

Twenty-nine years ago, when Bear Stadium’s gates were opened for the first time for the 1982 World Series (which the Bears happened to qualify for and, believe it or not, won), a lot of folks said it would soon be nothing more than a white elephant – as in a very expensive facility with no one to play in it and no one to care for it.

Hmmm … guess Bud Garber and Don Specht, before their passings, and still energized brothers Ken and Bob Ellis (along with an endless line of tireless volunteers) proved those folks wrong. After a while, or a handful or so visits, Bear Stadium – and what it offers for the ballplayers as well as the fans – is often taken for granted. But it still remains one of the country’s most stately amateur baseball facilities.

The proof is in the 11 state tournaments, 10 Mid-Atlantic Regionals and three World Series held there – and nary a complaint in any one of them.

So, hats off to those who turned the rolling farmland into their Field of Dreams … and to those who have maintained as well as enhanced it since.

The last time Bear Stadium played host to the Mid-Atlantic Regional was seven years ago, and what a memorable finish it was for the host Bears – beating Chester (Md.) twice on the last day to advance to the World Series out in Corvallis, Oregon. … Rockland County (N.Y.) won the previous regional at Bear Stadium in 2002, while Brooklawn (N.J.) swept the previous two in Boyertown back in 2000 and 1998. … Other Mid-Atlantic Regional champions to come out of Bear Stadium and advance to the World Series were Rockland County (1993); Glen Allen, Va. (1989); Boyertown (1986); eventual national champion Midlothian, Va. (1985); and Boyertown (1983).

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