42 youth teams playing in baseball tournament


Howard At Play


SO, YOU might wonder, what happens sports-wise after you've been to Disney World? And a corollary, what happens to baseball players after they've made it to Cooperstown, home of the Hall of Fame?

In the case of two baseball teams from the Howard County Youth Program: You come home and help host your organization's tournament.

This will be HCYP baseball's 22nd tournament. Competition starts Thursday and continues through Sunday at Kiwanis-Wallas Park in Ellicott City.

Forty-two teams will compete in five groups - under-8 (kids pitch), under-9 (full-time travel teams) and all-star teams in the 9-10, 11-12 and 13-14 age brackets.

That's about 650 players, in addition to moms, dads, brothers, sisters and other family members watching as well as spending in county shops, restaurants, and in some cases, motels.

On Friday and Saturday, especially, you'll be able to see baseball pretty much anytime during the day and, on the lighted diamonds, until about 10 p.m. Most teams are from Central Maryland, but a few will be coming from Pennsylvania, Virginia, and New York.

This is an interesting tournament in terms of competitive level, because with the exception of that under-9 travel bracket, all teams consist of recreation- level players selected from their spring club teams to compete in tournaments, mainly in July.

Greg Draper, who is co-directing the tournament with Ellicott City's Bob Lucido, said the event tries to emphasize the core of HCYP's youth baseball program, which is finishing its 50th season. That is, providing training and good experiences for rec-level players.

"Full-time travel team players compete for trophies all the time," Draper said. "But it's something special for rec-level players to be able to compete in a tournament setting. ... For some of them, it's one of the big thrills they'll have in baseball, and for many, they've never played under the lights, which is a big deal."

Woodstock's Dean Kreh, coach of HCYP's 13-14 all-stars and director of that tournament bracket, said one of the things that has struck him is the passion for baseball among tournament players.

"At this age, the boys just love to play baseball," he said. "It's not at all unusual to see boys who've played a couple games off to the side playing again with a whiffle ball."

Kreh's team is the one that made it to Cooperstown this summer - while competing in a weeklong tournament in nearby Oneonta, home of the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame. Lucido's team spent last week in the Orlando, Fla., area.

Second U.S. title

Camp Springs Soccer Club, a team of women, many of whom have played together for decades, interrupted its decade-plus ties with the Women's Soccer Association of Columbia this year.

But Ellicott City's Regina Jenkins, the team's only Howard countian, said the break helped yield the team's second national championship - for women over 40 - in three years.

"We used the time we would have played in Columbia to work out as a team with a trainer in Rockville that we hired," said Jenkins, the team's regular sweeper. "It really paid off, especially when we got to that final game."

Jenkins said the other unusual step taken by the squad was including another trainer/chiropractor during final-round play.

"The line after each game to get help from him looked like something outside a Civil War hospital," Jenkins said. "He did some amazing things to keep us going. Even though we were fitter as a team than we've been in a long time, this doesn't get easier as we get older."

The team's newest title came in what the U.S. Amateur Soccer Association calls its Veterans Cup tournament. The event was conducted in Beckley, W.Va.

The final game - Camp Spring's third in 48 hours - provided players with more indelible memories to go with three title-game losses: in 1980, 1991 (on penalty kicks) and again last season.

This year's win, 1-0, came over He Kini Popo, a squad from Hawaii, site for next year's national tournament. The team is planning to defend its title there, Jenkins said, adding: "We're actively looking for sponsors to help us out."

Defender Donna Ryan got the goal in the fifth minute off a corner kick from team captain Denise Carley. And then, in the 80th minute, goalkeeper Pam Schields preserved the win, stopping a penalty kick.

Summer sticks

The Heroes Lacrosse program is winding down its summer session, which hosted the most players in its history, says director Warren Michaels, now Centennial High's athletic director.

"We have right around 1,000 boys and 500 girls," said Michaels, whose lacrosse career began in the Heroes program locally. That was in 1976, when 44 boys showed up and were divided into four teams.

This year's program has 48 boys teams and 24 for girls.

The high school girls, by the way, won what is considered the biggest summer tournament for them - in Vail, Colo.

The boys teams are closing out its summer with this weekend's I-95 Classic in Fairfax, Va., an event the local Heroes club administers, although the site moves year-to-year.

This is the tournament's 26th year, Michaels said.

Call the writer at 410-332-6525 or send e-mail to lowell.sunderland@baltsun.com.

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