There are baseball tournaments, and then there is the Baseball Factory High School Invitational, April 11 and 12, in Anne Arundel County.
Played at Arundel High in Gambrills and at Joe Cannon Stadium in Harmans, the Baseball Factory event is a cut above the rest in only its second season.
The brainstorm of Jeff Brazier of the Baseball Factory, the self-acclaimed leader in college placement and player development, the tournament was set up to bring attention to prep teams in the mid-Atlantic area.
"Everybody knows about baseball in Florida, Texas and California and other big states, but there is tremendous baseball being played in the mid-Atlantic area," Brazier said. "With the quality teams we have playing, they can get the kind of recognition they deserve."
Four metro-area teams ranked in The Sun's Top 10, including No. 1 St. Paul's, two teams from West Virginia and teams from New Jersey and New York comprise a loaded field.
Joining the MIAA A Conference defending-champion Crusaders of St. Paul's are No. 3 Old Mill, No. 4 Mount St. Joseph and No. 15 Arundel, in addition to Musselman and Jefferson high schools of West Virginia, Steinert High of Hamilton, N.J., and Shenendehowa High of Clifton Park, N.Y.
Each team is guaranteed three games, playing single games on Friday at the two sites and doubleheaders on Saturday.
All expenses, such as umpires, baseballs, field fees and even a Thursday night banquet, are paid by the Baseball Factory and its sponsor, Puma. The teams need only to show up and play.
By 7:30 Saturday night, a pair of 2-0 teams will play for the championship. Nationally ranked Shenendehowa won by 8-1 over Old Mill in last year's final that was played in cold weather.
"Other than what was a really cold weekend in the Baltimore area, the tournament was well-played and well-attended," said Brazier.
"We're really excited about this year's tournament."
Mount St. Joseph coach Dave Norton took his Gaels out to the West Coast a couple years ago. Just this month his Gaels went 3-0 in a tournament in New Orleans, and he says the Baseball Factory tournament is "as good as any of the national tournaments we've been to. Our teams in Maryland can play with anybody."
Field of dreams
All nine Harford County baseball teams will play at some time at Aberdeen's Ripken Stadium this spring.
The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association has talked to the Ripkens about playing the 2004 state baseball tournament there.
Rick Wiles, director of the state baseball committee, said the two sides are "far apart on a financial agreement," but is confident something will be worked out.
This spring might be the last year the states are played at Joe Cannon Stadium.
Returning All-Metro catcher Preston Pehrson of Broadneck and Hereford's Jamie Estep lead a strong corps of area catchers.
Pehrson received a scholar- ship to Jacksonville and Estep signed with West Virginia.
In addition to those two, some of the other top catchers to watch this spring are: Brian Bent (Mount St. Joseph), Matt Parks (Calvert Hall), George Burnham (Franklin), Dave Caldwell (Loyola), Jason Clemons (Arundel), Bernie Harvey (Old Mill), Mike Nelson (Parkville), Lance Spry (Fallston) and Brian Sumerlin (Owings Mills).
Bent also will pitch for the No. 4 Gaels, and Summerlin, who led the area in hitting (.679, 36-for-53) last year, has moved from the outfield.
Around the horn
Franklin coach Larry Meekins got quite a jolt when pitcher/infielder Greg Parker decided not to play this spring for no special reason. Kyle Campbell, who played third base last year, moves to shortstop for All-Metro Chris Parker, Greg's brother, who is at UMBC. ... New coaches: Lee Schwarzenberg (Gibbons), Dave Lanham (St. Mary's), Steve Miller (Spalding), John Avery (Severn), Bryan Linz (C. Milton Wright), Shawn McElfish (Eastern Tech), Mark Junker (Patterson), Denis Ahearn (Centennial), Cuddy Wolfe (Edgewood). ... Pitchers to be heard from - Steve Evans (Chapelgate), 6-0 with 74 strikeouts in 37 innings last year, has signed with UMBC, and Andy Germuth (Spalding, junior) was 4-5 on losing MIAA A Conference team. ... Returning Severna Park All-County pitcher Ryan Doot (6-3) will play for the Naval Academy. ... Gibbons third baseman Nick Popp (.392, 33 RBIs) signed with Campbell University.