BlueSox step into wooden-bat league

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Baseball is coming to Washington ... again.

Seeing that the Washington Wild Things have become an overwhelming success in the Frontier League, Leo Trich figured the thirst wasn't fully quenched for the game, that people wanted to see more and more of it in the area.

So Trich, who served seven terms in the state House of Representatives and was a former commissioner of PONY Baseball, had an idea and he went with it.

Now, it has come to fruition.

Beginning in early June, the Washington BlueSox will embark on their first season. The team will play a 32-game schedule in the newly formed, wooden-bat, 11-team Tri-State Collegiate Summer Baseball League. The league will have two divisions, with the BlueSox competing in the same division as the Pittsburgh Pandas, the Allegheny Athletics, Baseball Training Academy and Youngstown Metros.

The BlueSox roster -- as well as the other rosters in the league -- will be made up of players who just finished their college seasons. The league, which will conclude its regular season July 21, also allows for players who just graduated from college and are not 23 years old prior to May 1 to compete.

Trich is the owner and general manager of the BlueSox franchise, whose home games will be played at Falconi Field and Ross Memorial Field -- Washington & Jefferson College's new sports complex. Admission will be free.

Trich said the BlueSox will play their home games when the Wild Things are on the road so playing dates will not conflict. He also said the BlueSox will wear throwback-style uniforms for their home games, giving the older members of the community a sense of nostalgia when they take in a contest.

When Trich met with members of the media at Falconi Field on Wednesday morning to unveil the plans for the new franchise, he stressed the BlueSox would be "filling a void." Everyone associated with the franchise pushed the issue that, while similar teams and leagues have existed in the past, the BlueSox will make a concerted effort to have a roster with a Western Pennsylvania feel, sprinkled with more than a few players who either grew up in the Washington area or are currently playing at colleges in the area.

"Players will all tell you the same thing when you go around this area," said Duane Lanzy, the former Waynesburg College head coach who will manage the BlueSox. "They will say that they need good competition in the summer and a place to play that is a stable organization. The BlueSox will fill this void, definitely."

And they will play in a stable league, which hasn't always been the case in these sort of undertakings. Some summer collegiate leagues have been doomed with financial woes and sniping about players jumping from team to team. The representatives of this league have vowed occurrences such as that won't happen.

"This will not be over-organized like some of the similar leagues have been," said Frank Gilbert, the Tri-State College Summer League president and Pittsburgh Pandas general manager. "Actually, we're the opposite of that. We're the kind of people who don't want it to be overly bureaucratic. That isn't a good situation when it is. This is about the baseball and the players competing and becoming better."

The Washington Auto Mall will be the primary sponsor and will offset the estimated cost of $18,000 the BlueSox will incur this year.

"When Leo came to us, we thought it would be something good because of his track record," said Gary Flannery, general manager of the Washington Auto Mall. "Leo got about halfway through his [presentation] and we knew right then it was something we had to be involved in. We knew we wanted to put our name to it and be a part of this."

And this is a league in which the goal isn't solely to win; there is a lot more to it.

"Winning is important, yes," Lanzy explained. "But development is just as or more important. We need to utilize the time we have in the summer with these players to ensure they improve. That is the main thing."



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