July 31, 2007


Ripken, Gwynn show us what baseball is all about


Associated Press/Mike GrollPhoto credit
Jeff Springer of Valley Lee, Md., holds up a Cal Ripken, Jr. jersey at the Clark Sports Center, site of the National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cooperstown, Sunday.

Sports Editor

There is no ideal solution here, no way to appease either side from the messy situation that evolved from a bunch of boys, not yet teenagers, playing the National Pastime of baseball on a typically normal summer evening in America.
The simple facts stated are the Cortland County Babe Ruth League Junior Division contest this past Thursday night at Beaudry Park ended up with Groton defeating the Cortland Eagles in a title game. Both teams had already pulled off upsets of higher seeded foes in the playoff semifinals to get the chance be crowned champions.
Then the Eagles cried foul because a Groton player did not come to bat in the game. Though he played two innings and was on deck waiting to come to the plate when Groton’s final out was made, a league rule had been violated was the contention.
Groton explained its side of the story to no avail, including the fact the player involved had missed practice prior to the title game and didn’t even have to appear in the game. What followed was a barrage of ill feelings between the two sides, nasty e-mails and a sick feeling in the gut of impartial observers everywhere.
Michael DiMattei, who conducts the goings on in the Cortland County Babe Ruth program, was in a no-win situation making a ruling on how to handle the situation. Apparently, the suggestion of local coach Bob Rosato of Homer to declare co-champions provides some sort of a solution, Rosato also miffed at the way some fans have misbehaved over the course of this season.
Time could be spent here harking back on the good old days, when back-yard baseball played by young boys and girls with no championship on the line and no meddling adults seemed pure and innocent and part of the growing up process. Ah how things have changed in the 21st century. Leagues are in place and rules are made and trophies are there for the taking — even in this Junior Division that was created by DiMattei a few seasons ago for the sole purpose of getting more kids on the field participating.
Just this past weekend, Cortland Post 489 won a district playoff baseball game by successfully protesting the face the opposition was one player shy of the minimum allowed by American Legion playoff rules. And even in Cortland Men’s Slow Pitch League softball, a recent playoff game has to be replayed because a team used an illegal player in accordance to the by-laws of the league.
So this Junior Babe Ruth situation is hardly an isolated incident, since rules are rules. The disturbing behavior of grown-ups in situations like this, which has been well documented throughout the country in recent years in a variety of youth sports, is what is truly unsettling. This current out-break of bad behavior in this case and throughout the summer led to John McNerney, who heads up the Cortland Youth Bureau, to issue this e-mail to all involved:
“As director of the Cortland City Youth Bureau I see parents who lose focus on the objective of youth sports. The Babe Ruth league should be available to teach the basic fundamentals of baseball and provide a fun experience for all participants. The program is designed to enhance the growth of youth in various areas such as life skills, accepting responsibility, sportsmanship and developing physical fitness, which are critical to youth development.
“Parents and volunteer coaches are expected to exhibit appropriate behavior at all times. It is the expectation of the league that players, spectators and coaches shall show respect to all involved.”
Which brings us to a moment that displays what is good about baseball.
Which brings us to this past Sunday afternoon in the small town of Cooperstown, where baseball fans displayed the utmost respect to Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn over the weekend. The Butler Boys were among the throng of fans estimated at some 75,000 strong who paid tribute to these latest and beloved Hall of Fame inductees.
The staggering mass of humanity who overflowed the athletic fields on the outskirts of town where the ceremony took place — in an event that has been happy to draw 15,000 folks in previous years — was all in gratitude for two all-stars who played the game the right way while being humble gentlemen as well.
In a baseball season where an uncomfortable feeling accompanies Barry Bonds’  pursuit of the hallowed home run record of Hank Aaron, baseball and especially commissioner Bud Selig had to be overjoyed to the spotlight was now shining on two examples of what is good about the sport.
The fans appreciated the fact that Baltimore Orioles shortstop Ripken and San Diego Padres right-fielder Gwynn played their entire careers with the same club — which is practically unheard of these days. They also appreciated the fact both were hard working athletes who never abused their fame or wealth and who contributed to their respective communities.
There were 75,000 strong saying thank you for those enduring qualities.
Gwynn talked about the work done to become a better player, a better hitter, midway through his career by watching video tape of his at bats, by picking the brains of hitting experts such as the late, great Ted Williams. Poor current major leaguer Adam Dunn was picked on for having as many strike outs over two seasons than Gwynn had in a remarkable 20-year stretch in which he built a career batting average of .338.
Ripken’s record of 2,632 consecutive games played speaks volumes for his unwavering dedication to his profession.
Yet our favorite Ripken story leading up to the induction ceremony came from ESPNbaseball man Orestes Destrade, who remembered a special moment after Ripken set the record. Mired in a hitting slump late in his career, well after an afternoon game had ended, Ripken politely replied to reporter’s questions about his struggles. Destrade was later typing out a story in the press box of a deserted stadium when he looked up and saw Ripken emerging from the dugout. With a batting tee and a bucket of baseballs, he stood at home plate and smacked balls all over the vacated ballpark as darkness fell. Then he retrieved each ball himself, returned to the plate and did it all over again.
That is what made Ripken special. That is why friendly and energetic crowd of 75,000 people, a huge chunk of those from Baltimore, made this special pilgrimage to Cooperstown.
All those Oriole fans also provided a bit of a dilemma. As older son Rory noted, if younger son Evan were to get lost in Sunday’s Cooperstown crowd it was going to be laughable when trying to provide a description of him to authorities — since thousands of others also had an Oriole cap perched on their head while donning a black Cal Ripken No. 8 jersey.
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Cortland High baseball coach John Tobin has been like a proud papa this summer after three of his former Purple Tigers — Oneonta’s Brandon Galutz, Brockport’s Mike Avery and Cortland’s Sean Caughey — were all-league selections in the SUNY Athletic Conference this season. All three were outfielders at their respective schools.
And the good news for SUNY Cortland head coach Joe Brown is that Avery will be returning home to play for the Red Dragons in the 2008 season. Older brother Tom Avery also transferred home to play at Cortland, where their dad is employed.
Cortland went 42-7 this past season, winning the SUNYAC regular season and playoff titles. The Red Dragons advanced into the NCAA Division III World Series and finished fourth in the country.
Mike Avery was the second leading hitter for Brockport this past season, batting .358 with 25 RBI. Caughey hit .388 for the Red Dragons, while Galutz finished his career with Oneonta by hitting .336 with a team-high eight home runs.
Checking out the progress of Cortland Red Dragons currently in the professional ranks finds Jim Dougher with a 1.04 earned run average and a 1-0 record for the Blue Jays in Florida’s Gulf Coast League, having make six appearances and five starts for the 20-15 squad. Second baseman Will Groff is batting .273 with a home run for Batavia in the Class A New York-Penn League, having appeared in 14 games for the 13-25 Muckdogs. Outfielder Andrew Mead is batting .324 with a home run in 22 games for the Greg Falls White Sox who have just started the second half of summer play in Montana.
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And who says you can’t come home again?
In late June, Doug Pasquerella was hired back at Homer Central where he had been the girls’ varsity field hockey and junior high boys’ soccer coach previously. Of course, the 2000 SUNY Cortland graduate was also an assistant basketball coach at the college under Tom Spanbauer before leaving that post to take on the head men’s basketball coaching job at New Paltz. With the Hawks, who play in Cortland’s SUNY Athletic Conference, Pasquerella finished 11-14 this past season. Even before the 2006-07 campaign began, there were rumblings he could return to the area.
The retirement of longtime Homer Central coach and physical education teacher Jim Luchsinger, who coached the boys’ basketball team this past season, opened the door for Pasquerella’s return. His wife Christina is a Cortlander, too.
It seems a nice fit for the Homer athletes looking to rebuild its basketball program especially that has recently played an independent schedule after taking lumps in the OHSL Freedom Division.



Post 489 tripped up at Districts

BINGHAMTON — A familiar result returned to plague Cortland Post 489 Monday afternoon at the American Legion Baseball District 6 Tournament at Conlon Field in Binghamton.
For the third year in a row, the Cortland squad, after winning its opening game in the event, lost its second contest, this time by an 8-6 score to Oneonta Post 259.
Post 489 has battled to the losers’ bracket final in each of the past two district tournaments before being eliminated one game short of the championship round. The Cortland squad’s first step in that direction this year was to take place at 5 p.m. today against the winner of a 2 p.m. contest between Marathon Post 617 and Horseheads Post 442.
Post 489 scored a forfeit win over Lansing, which didn’t have the minimum 12 players, in the first round on Monday, while Marathon fell to Oxford-Norwich 4-2. Today’s other losers’ bracket game will not be played, Lansing again forced to forfeit due to a lack of players, this time to Trumansburg Post 770.
Cortland and Oneonta were tied 3-3 entering the seventh inning Monday before a two-run single by P.J. McMullen put Oneonta up for good. A two-run double by Lane Potter made it 7-3 before Sean Finucane’s two-run home run, which cleared the scoreboard in left-center in the eighth, narrowed the margin to 7-5. Each team added a run down the stretch — Oneonta as Devlin Vanderhoof scored on the front end of a double steal in the eighth — to account for the final margin.



Cortland Teeners advance to semis

The Cortland Teeners youth baseball team began post-season play with a 9-5 home field win over visiting Owego Monday night.
The winners, who next face the Town of Binghamton Sabres at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Coleman Park in Binghamton, scored the first seven runs of the game, then hung on. Owego scored four times in the seventh and had two runners on base when reliever Tony Whitt struck out the final batter.
Cody Smith went 2-for-2 with three RBIs and two runs for Cortland, while Alex Stacy was 2-for-2 with a double, Justin Tabel 2-for-4 with two runs and winning pitcher Justin Burns 2-for-5 with three RBIs. Burns is now 3-0 on the mound this season, and Cortland is 10-2-1 on the season.
The hosts scored once in the first to open the scoring as Whitt was hit by a pitch, stole second and scored on a single to center by Burns. A bases-loaded single by Burns in the fourth made it 3-0, and Cortland broke the game open with four more runs in the fifth. Stacey led off with a double and was singled to third by Tabel, who advanced to second on the throw home. Both runners scored on a single to right by Smith, and after Whitt was hit by another pitch and stole second a pair of wild pitches plated both runners.
After Owego scored once in the top of the sixth, Cortland scored twice more in the sixth. Justin Hogan and Devin Darrow led off with consecutive singles, and scored on back-to-back singles by Smith and Whitt. In addition to the winners’ 10 hits and two hit batters, Owego pitchers issued 10 walks in the contest.
The winner of Wednesday’s contest advances to the championship game at 6 p.m. Saturday at NYSEG Stadium, the home of the Binghamton Mets.