Dave Schilling, general manager and head coach of the Baltimore Chop summer collegiate baseball team, remembers coaching many of his current players when they were first learning the fundamentals of the game. As it turns out, those seeds sprouted into a team for the ages.
"A bunch of these players have been playing with me since they were seven years old," Schilling said. "This year's team was just much deeper than any team we've ever had, we could put any players on the field at any time. Fifteen position players would show up to some games even if they knew they weren't going to play, just to be there and hang out. This team was more committed than any other team I've had."
The team, made up primarily of former Howard County high school standouts, won its second consecutive Maryland Collegiate Baseball League title this summer, compiling a 38-2 overall record.
Representing Howard County on the team were Dan Druzgala (Mount St. Joseph/Salisbury University), Logan Dubbe (Glenelg High/Washington College), Ben Ferraro (Marriotts Ridge/Methodist University), Kevin Kratochwill (Marriotts Ridge/St. Joseph's University), Nick Marinelli (Marriotts Ridge/Washington College), Doug Miller (Glenelg Country/Heidelberg University), Andrew Monger (Mt. Hebron/McDaniel College), Dan Powers (Centennial/Shenandoah University), Raul Shah (Mt. Hebron/Johns Hopkins) and Thomas Solomon (Mount St. Joseph/Johns Hopkins).
Shah (.296 AVG, 20 RBIs, 18 R, 8 2B, 2 3B), Ferraro (21 R, 9 SB), Marinelli (18 R, 13 RBI, .351 AVG), Monger (5-0, 35 K, 1.25 ERA) and Solomon (4-0, 1.30 ERA) were all among the league leaders statistically.
The Chop's only losses came to the Baltimore Panthers during the regular season, and to Dig In Baseball in the first game of the championship series.
But those other 38 games were something special. The Baltimore Chop became the first team to repeat as MCBL champions, set the league record for regular season wins with 31, started the season 24-0 to set a new record for consecutive wins, and scored 224 regular season runs while allowing 68, establishing another league record.
"Our team philosophy was real simple this season. It was just: win and try to break some records," said Powers, one of 11 Baltimore Chop players named a MCBL All-Star. "Each time we went out to the field it was "What can I do to help the team win tonight? And we were able to do that 38 times.
"It was just that bond that we had, everyone just looked forward to going out to the field and hanging out with each other."
Miller, Solomon, Powers, Marinelli and Shah were all named MCBL All-Stars for the Chop, along with Steve Ridings, Bret Schilling, Dennis Thomas, Ryan Taylor and Tom Harper.
Nick Meyer, a Mt. Hebron graduate who played for the Baltimore Chop and Stevenson University before tearing his rotator cuff and joining the coaching staff, says that a selfless approach contributed to the Chop's unprecedented success.
"The game is to be played as a team. When a guy gets on second with a leadoff double, the next guy's job is to get him to third base. Whether that's a bunt, or a sac fly, or a base hit, that's his job," Meyer said. "The understanding how to play the game the correct way is the important thing."
That approach not only helped the Baltimore Chop break numerous league records this season, it also garnered the team national recognition.
The Chop was named an honorable mention in Perfect Game's Summer Collegiate rankings, a list comprised mostly of teams populated with Division I players competing in such powerhouse leagues as the Cape Cod League.
"You play baseball the right way, you're going to get recognized, whether it's by a ranking service, or a college scout, or a pro scout, or something else," Meyer said.
Schilling, who first started coaching his son, Bret, along with fellow Choppers Matt Salmon and Ryan Taylor about 15 years ago, stepped down as head coach after this season. He did say that he will continue to serve the team organizationally behind the scenes and with recruiting.
"Now we can put some younger blood in there," Schilling said. "It's time to pass it off to someone else, but I've met some incredible kids over the years."
Meyer will take over as head coach next season, and a significant portion of the roster will also depart as they have graduated college.
"There will be a bunch of turnover, but we're still going to be a strong team," Meyer said. "It's bittersweet. What Dave provides is sorely going to be missed. Some people don't realize just how much he's done behind the scenes ... but I love the coaching aspect of (baseball) now."