The second annual “Dream Games” tournament was held at Catonsville High on May 6 and the participants from Baltimore County Allied Softball teams celebrated home runs, doubles, putouts and double plays, while also enjoying a home run derby between games on a gorgeous spring day.
The squads play indoors during the regular season, but they ventured outside for the tournament that featured four 40-minute games played simultaneously on the Comet Park football field on four make-shift diamonds.
After saying the highlight of his game against Towson was turning a double play, Dulaney’s Chase Blanchard talked about why he liked playing outdoors.
“You get to enjoy the fresh air and if you ask me it’s better than playing video games on your phone inside,” said Blanchard, noting he was most proud of a memorable moment at the plate he had during the regular season. “I batted in a grand slam.”
The tournament was coordinated by Brad Kressman, Baltimore County Public Schools Allied Sports Resource Teacher, and co-sponsored by the League of Dreams.
Frank Kolarek, League of Dreams president and executive director, and Mike Bordick, League of Dreams chairman of the board and former Major League player and current analyst for the Baltimore Orioles, were there to get the games underway.
Catonsville allied softball coach Alicia Brady and Kressman got the inaugural even together last year and it was the first postseason tournament for the Allied softball program.
Their were 14 teams last year and 16 this spring.
The teams that participated this year included: Catonsville, Chesapeake, Dulaney, Dundalk, Franklin, Hereford, Kenwood, Lansdowne, Milford Mill Academy, New Town, Owings Mills, Parkville, Perry Hall, Randallstown, Towson and Woodlawn.
All the athletes formed a circle in the middle of the football field before the tournament and, after a pre-game imitation of the Ray Lewis dance by a Randallstown athlete, Kressman addressed the crowd, praising Michael Sye, coordinator for Baltimore County Athletics.
“He has been an outstanding supporter for Allied Sports,” Kressman said. “He’s given us all the resources we need so we can put these programs on.”
The other programs are Allied Bowling and Allied Soccer.
Kressman welcomed back Kolarek and Bordick for the second straight year.
“We partnered with League of Dreams and they were instrumental in getting this program going and supporting us,” Kressman said.
Kolarek, a Catonsville resident, whose son, Adam, was a 2007 Catonsville High graduate and is currently a pitcher with a 2-0 record and 3.00 earned run average in Major League Baseball for the Tampa Bay Rays, founded the League of Dreams in 2004 with the goal of seeing that everybody, regardless of limitation or disability, gets a chance to be a player in baseball or softball.
Kolarek had a few words for those in attendance before the games began.
“We are really happy for all of you here, all the players, all of the coaches, our parents and our dancer,” he said. “I want to thank Brad and Alicia here at Catonsville High School for all their hard work and all the people here at Catonsville for hosting this event.”
After the ‘Play Ball’ announcement came over the loud speaker, the first series of four 40-minute games began and Catonsville’s Neko McKeever didn’t waste any time making an impact.
In his first at bat in the top of the first inning, he hit a home run, and while playing first base in the bottom of the inning, he secured three putouts.
The slugger was eager to talk about his homer that carried the foam rubber ball off his hard foam bat deep into the outfield.
“I just hit the ball and just said, ‘Hey, that’s good, a home run, I like that,’ ” McKeever said.
Meanwhile, on another field, Towson was playing Dulaney.
It was a rare opportunity for the two rivals to collide in Allied Softball.
“We don’t normally play them in our regular season, we used to, and than they kind of changed up the east side, west side thing, so we were really excited to play them today because they know each other and they are all friends and they see each other at different things,” Dulaney coach Anita Shaw said.
No one had to tell Towson High’s Ryan Robinson his opponent was a rival.