County twirlers, sandlotters win national championships


Howard At Play

August 04, 2002|By LOWELL E. SUNDERLAND

TALES FROM two Howard County organizations with teams that have proved in recent days to be the best of their kind:

BASEBALL: The first championship team in the Howard County Youth Program's five-decade history, a squad of 12-year-olds, produced the Ellicott City group's only major leaguer, Cecil Perkins. And now, adding luster as HCYP's 50th season in baseball winds down, its under-12 full-time travel team has a national championship -- thought to be the group's first such title and, maybe, the first by any Howard County youth squad.

Coach Scott Staso's dozen players, whose season is finishing up at yet another tournament this week in Cooperstown, N.Y., is the National Amateur Baseball Federation's age-group champion.

You can call it a national championship, but just understand what you're talking about. That's because there must be a dozen or more such "national championships" in youth baseball every summer, depending on which association is running the competition.

The NABF was founded in 1914 and claims more than 120,000 players in eight age groups competing in affiliated leagues. Staso, though, said the title tournament consists mainly of teams from east of the Mississippi River.

Still, proving yourself the best against teams and players from other parts of the country is more than most young athletes ever experience. The HCYP boys did, after all, get to compete on merit -- by winning the competitive Baltimore Metro League's western division with a 22-6 record.

Staso's boys blew through the NABF field in Hopkinsville, Ky., which really is in the middle of nowhere but has what the coach called a beautiful baseball complex. They won their four opening "pool games" easily from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Kentucky opponents, three of the wins coming on "slaughter-rule" shortened games.

Then in knockout play, Carmel, Ind., fell, 7-0; the Tennessee Copperheads went down, 3-0, on a two-hitter; and in the final, the Ohio Flames from Cincinnati succumbed, 6-1. Not shabby -- on a couple of levels.

First, many tournaments allow teams to supplement their rosters by adding stronger players from other regular-season squads, but Staso used only the 12 players he has had all season.

"We emphasize `team,' " he said. "We rotate all 12 players in and out of the lineup in every game. I've caught some flak about that, but the boys are all 12, and what we're still doing at that age is still developing players, not competing as major-leaguers."

Second, his team is "a true, Howard County-built team," he said. "All of them made it through HCYP's tryout process."

Those team players, alphabetically: Stephen Boucher, Matt Bryan, Andrew Chatham, Josh Futter, Danny Johnson, Casey Medary, Tommy Miller, Scotty Moran, Willie Staso, Chris Wellde, Ben Winter and Matt Zarin.

Four team fathers serve as assistant coaches: Craig Boucher, Jim Futter, Mark Johnson and Mike Wellde.

"It's been a dream season," said the elder Staso, who started the team as 8-year-olds, has five of those original boys playing and has had the same roster for two seasons. As 10-year-olds, the team finished fifth in the American Amateur Baseball Congress's National Tournament.

TWIRLING: The Dynamics, a small, obviously competitive baton-twirling organization with about 35 girls practicing year-round at Volleyball House in Elkridge, has added seven more national titles to its awards shelf.

The trophies came home from the National Baton Twirling Association's annual national tournament at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.

That performance ran the club's streak of winning at least one such title -- defined by age and various combinations of twirlers -- to 12 straight years, said North Laurel's Linda Alford, the group's founder and head coach.

Two junior- and one senior-level Dynamics teams qualified for competition in the organization's triennial world championships in Marseilles, France. Only one other team was chosen to represent the United States in France. The Dynamics captured two world titles two years ago in England. The NBTA is the larger of two national twirling organizations, Alford said.

None of the winning twirlers at Notre Dame this year, oddly enough, was a Howard County resident, said Alford, whose program draws participants from other parts of Maryland, as well as Pennsylvania and Virginia. One of them, Lanie Blankenship, a Richmond, Va., resident and the University of Tennessee's featured twirler, was selected Miss College Majorette of America during the Notre Dame competition.

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