By Steve Kreider
Participant in ’74, Coach in ’91
The great game of baseball has consumed a major part of my life for well over 30 years. I grew up in the Akron/Ephrata area in the 60’s and 70’s when this world moved at a much slower pace.
As a 16year-old in the summer of 1974, I played the outfield, batted cleanup, and was the No. 2 pitcher for Coach Wechter’s Akron midget baseball team. We dominated the local midget league, and qualified for the prestigious New Era Tournament.
My teammates that year included Jan Keith (P), Rick Gerhard (C), Daryl Burkholder (2B), Jim Dull (SS) and Steve Ober (OF). We advanced to the New Era finals and played under the lights at Davy Arnold field in Lancaster. Boy, if that wasn’t the highlight of my young life! Columbia was our opponent, and they had a couple of huge lefthanders. Needless to say, we got blown out.
One incident from that 1974 championship game still sticks in my mind to this day. Down eight or nine runs late in the game, I tried to stretch a double into a triple (on my own) and got thrown out at third. While on the ground, I grabbed a handful of dirt and fired it into shallow left field. Coach Wechter, standing at third, said nothing. we both knew that Akron’s midget baseball run for that year was soon over.
Seventeen years later, as the head coach of the 1991 Ephrata Lions junior midget baseball team, we advanced to the New Era Tournament championship game. My star player, Matt Buckwalter was on the mound that day at Kunkle Field in Mount Joy. We were matched up against Solanco. Their star player was righthander Greg Schaub. Enough said. (As you probably know, he is currently pitching in the Milwaukee organization after being drafted as an outfielder out of high school).
Let me tell you, Schaub was the most dominating 14-year-old that I ever saw! Perfect mechanics, a blazing fastball, wicked curve, with pinpoint control. My brother Brad was in the first base coaching box, and I can still picture him across the diamond shaking his head and chuckling to himself. It would be a long night.
Somehow we managed to score four runs against Schaub that game, but it wasn’t enough. Another great season was coming to an end.
Two New Era Tournament championship games, one as a player, one as a coach … both losses. Great memories.
I later coached JV baseball at Ephrata High School (1995-96-97) and Cocalico High School (1998-99-00). I currently live in Wyomissing, have two young sons, and help out with the JV team at Schuylkill Valley HS.
And a personal note … one superstition that has always tied my baseball experiences together is that since 1973, in every game that I played and every game that I coached, you could find two dimes and one penny in the back pocket of my uniform. This has been a continuing tribute to the greatest rightfielder in MLB history, who happened to play in the western part of Pennsylvania many, many years ago.