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 16, 2012

Spring City’s Medley learns value of patience

WEST LAWN — When Pat Medley was told Friday’s second-round Mid-Atlantic Regional game would be pushed back a minimum of seven hours, if not another day, it wasn’t any big deal.
Maybe for the rest of his Spring City teammates...
But not for the 19-year-old Medley, who has learned - though painfully - a little patience after sitting around and watching a lot of baseball this summer.
Late last summer, a nagging shoulder injury forced him to give up his spot in the Red Sox’s starting rotation and take over as a regular in right field. Then this past June, in the first full week of the American Legion season, he broke his wrist after avoiding a collision with second baseman Tom Grablewski while attempting to catch a blooper in short right.
In a cast...
And out of the lineup for what amounted to the entire summer.
“It’s been really tough,” Medley said prior to Friday night’s national regional game against host West Lawn. “I come out here everyday and want to play but I have to watch.”
Medley was an integral part of Spring-Ford High School’s run to the District 1-AAAA title and runner-up finish in the state in 2011. He pitched, he hit, and he played defense with the best of them. The shoulder injury cropped up later, and because of it he felt it was best not to even put an effort into making the roster at Bucknell University roster this past spring.
He did play club ball, and he hit the books - finishing his freshman year with a 3.8 grade-point average as a mechanical engineering major.
But baseball was what he was looking forward to when closing up the books in May and heading home.
“I knew I wasn’t going to pitch this summer (because of the shoulder issue),” Medley explained. “But I knew I could play...”
Until breaking his wrist.
Spring City manager Jamie Scheck was as excited as anyone to have Medley back for his fourth season.
In 2010, Scheck moved Medley up from the sixth spot in the order to leadoff, and did Medley ever respond to the challenge. Not only did he get on base with regularity and hit for average, he also roped it - finishing with an unheard 13 triples as well as a pair of home runs in helping the Red Sox to the Pennsylvania American Legion state title.
“We moved him up because (Ricky) Gorrell was there and he was such an aggressive hitter, so we moved him down to third and Medley up to leadoff,” Scheck said.
“Pat is very patient at the plate. But he’s not your atypical leadoff man, either, because he hits for power, too.”
Scheck, and the Red Sox surely have missed Medley’s presence on the field ... but he’s contributed in other ways.
“He’s incredible,” Scheck said. “He just got the cast off a couple weeks ago. When he first did it we were hoping we’d get him back for the state tournament, but we always love having him around. I told him in the beginning if he wanted to take some time off it would be okay, but he said no way he’d do that.
“Pat’s very quite, but he’s a very positive influence on this team. He’ll help our pitchers stretch out, work with them during drills. He’ll also grab a glove and help us with infield and outfield (practice). He’s done everything he could to help us. He’s been there everyday.”
“If I sat around and did nothing I’d get bored,” Medley said. “I’ve just tried to help in any way I could.”

Volunteers make American Legion tournaments possible

ROYERSFORD — Walt Gadzicki remembers mowing the infield and outfield grass a couple times a week, lining the first and third base lines before the home games and, after catching his breath, writing out a starting lineup before he’d begin pacing back and forth in front of the bench for a few hours.
Keeping the Washington Street Field all prim and proper, just as Gerry Seislove did before him, was part of his responsibilities as manager of the Spring City American Legion team.
Three years after taking over the program, though, Gadzicki saw a dramatic change in the baseball landscape when Boyertown opened the gates to Bear Stadium for the 1982 World Series.
“I remember it vividly,” he recalled. “I remember sitting up there for the final, with 6,000-plus people in the place, watching Boyertown beat (Lafayette) California. It left a lasting impression on me.”
So much so, it inspired Gadzicki — who after stepping down as manager would become president of the Spring City American Legion Baseball Committee — and others in his organization to build their own stadium ... their own Field of Dreams, as Bear Stadium was often called long before Hollywood unveiled its classic by the same name on the big screen.
And Gadzicki discovered — much like Kenny Ellis, and the late Bud Garber and Don Specht did when they embarked on their project in Boyertown — he wasn’t alone. Help came from all directions, from electricians and plumbers to pencil-pushers and go-fers.
“We looked at what the Boyertown community accomplished and it was pretty special,” Gadzicki explained. “Then we looked at where we were playing (on the Washington Street Field), where there were no dugouts, no nothing to speak of. So we approached the school district. We told them if they build a field and put a fence around it we’d take care of everything else.”
Spring-Ford built the field ... the Spring City American Legion workforce — countless volunteers — turned it into Ram Stadium.
Gadzicki and his committee opened the gates to Ram Stadium for the first time in 1999. It was the Pennsylvania State Region Three Tournament, which counting this weekend has now been held at the facility four times. In between them, the 2007 Pennsylvania State Tournament, as well as many Junior Legion tournaments, were held at Ram Stadium.
“A ton of work goes into (hosting a tournament),” said Todd Clemens, a former player and manager in the Red Sox organization who now serves as treasurer and Director of Baseball Operations. “It pretty much takes all year to prepare for.
“But like a lot of programs, it’s the major fundraiser for us. It helps keep our expenses down.”
Getting the opportunity to host a postseason tournament is rather simple — submit a bid to the state and cross your fingers. There are no guarantees required, but Pennsylvania American Legion does get a percentage of the net profit.
Clemens said the organization usually budgets around $5,000 for a state regional. Support from the business community, which place ads in the tournament program, sure helps. So does the refreshment stand ... and, of course, fans coming through the ticket gate.
But there are expenses. Umpires, snack bar supplies, special equipment like tents for patrons and tournament personnel, and the stadium lighting costs. Barry “Bah-Bah” Shafer handles the announcing duties and Tim Krause the official scoring duties free of charge.
What Gadzicki, Clemens and their board of directors haven’t had to worry about, though, is maintenance — and that includes a very dedicated ground crew.
“Hosting a tournament means more work, a lot more work,” Gadzick said. “We look to the parents as our core group. They’re our foundation. But there are a lot of volunteers, too.”
Some never tire of helping out, either... like Ted Kandler and Barry Vining, at 72 the youngsters of the ground crew; Jon Boettger and Gene Krasley, both 74; and Frank Miller and Ray Overdorf, 80 and 84 years young.
“We’ve been together for around 10 years now,” said Krasley, who also gets help from Dave and Speck Landis, Bob Mull, Al Hritz, Calvin Fredricks, John O’Rourke and Wil Cromley.
“They’re an amazing group,” Clemens added. “But we feel that way about everyone here. We have a lot of people who put a lot of time in this. Our parents have always been very supportive, too.
“We’ve gotten to the point now where hosting a tournament isn’t as strenuous on us as an organization. We’re pretty organized now.”
And no one, perhaps, sees it more than Red Sox manager Jamie Scheck. Unlike all those previous managers — Seislove, Gadzicki, Rod Johnson and even Clemens, Scheck can focus on just coaching, and coaching a group of ballplayers who are as appreciative as anyone for the opportunity to play at Ram Stadium.
“I think our kids do appreciate all of this,” Scheck explained. “Heck, a lot of them even help out when we’re not playing here.
“But a lot of all this is due to the parents and so many volunteers helping out and putting in a lot of time here. They all have a taste now for what it’s like to run a good tournament.”
A good taste.
“Hosting an American Legion tournament is something we strive for,” Gadzicki said. “It’s one of our goals, even though some other teams may frown on that. But we want to be there at the end (of the season). We want to be playing.
“Everyone knows if you host you’re in the tournament. But we’ve earned our way most of the times. We’ve been very competitive through the years.”
Or very, very good come tournament time — that’s off the field, too.