When it comes to reaching the heights in amateur baseball, not many players have accomplished as much as Old Mill grad Mark Foster (OF-P)and Arundel High alumni Josh Bullock (P-OF), Tommy Taylor (OF) and Pat Kahl (C).
Their hard work, coupled with extraordinary talent, has earned them positions on the nationally acclaimed Johnny's New andUsed Cars 20-and-Under Team of Baltimore and a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Holland for the World Port Tournament.
Making personal sacrifices and giving up their summers to play baseball has been very rewarding to this foursome.
All four were on the Anne Arundel County Sun 1989 All-County team -- all first team except for Kahl, a second-team catcher -- and all four played for coachBernie Walter's Mayo Post No. 226 American Legion state championshipteam in 1989.
Foster, who led Old Mill to the state 4A title and an overall 20-1 record in 1989, played on last summer's national championship Mayo team with Kahl.
American Legion Player of the Year honors went to Foster after he led Mayo to the championship, and now he is starring for Johnny's.
The team leaves Tuesday for Holland and the World Port Tournament. It will be Johnny's second appearance inthe prestigious international event in three years.
In 1989, Johnny's became the first team to beat Cuba in this tournament and finished as runner-up, bowing to host Holland, 4-3, in the final. Cuba had dominated in prior years.
Foster, Bullock, Taylor and Kahl have gone on from high school star status to receive college baseball scholarships and excel at that level. Understandably, professional baseballaspirations are on their minds. This is a foursome used to winning championships and fortunate enough to experience a lot of thrills thatcome with playing the game.
Traveling to Holland and playing international competition is something they have yet to experience, and they obviously are looking forward to it.
"We're all excited. I know I am because I've never been out of the country," said Taylor, who was an Anne Arundel County Sun All-County outfielder at Arundel High in '89, batting .500 with five homers.
Taylor spent the last two years at South Carolina in Aiken, hitting .350 this past spring, but has decided to transfer to "a better baseball school" at Florida Southern. It's his hope to be drafted by a pro club.
"I got my release from South Carolina Aiken and won't have to sit out a year. I can play right away at Florida Southern and with the exposure I'm getting with Johnny's, I hope to get drafted," said Taylor. "It doesn't hurt toplay over in Holland either where a lot of scouts will be watching."
They will be watching teams from Cuba, Canada, Venezuela, Hollandand a couple other neighboring countries.
"There should be about seven to eight teams there, and they're all Olympic-type clubs," saidWalter Youse, the ageless manager of the Johnny's team and scouting supervisor for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Youse, who started as a scout in the Baltimore Orioles' organization almost 50 years ago and moved on to scout for the California Angels and the Brewers, will be taking a very representative Johnny's club over there.
Johnny's was 36-5 overall going into this weekend and is gearing up for its 37th consecutive Baltimore City championship and subsequent trip to Johnstown, Pa., for the All-American Amateur Baseball Association national tournament. The team, which Youse started back in the early '50s as Leone's Boys Club, won the national AAABA nine of the last 12 years and atotal of 17 times.
Over the years such former major leaguers as Hall of Famer Al Kaline, Reggie Jackson, Willie Mays Aikens, Moose Haas, Tom Phoebus, Dave Boswell, Jim Spencer and Ron Swoboda have playedfor Youse's club.
Winning in Johnstown is the team's top priorityand the reason for its pro-like everyday schedule, but a lot of prestige can be gained by playing and winning in Holland.
"I think we're taking a helluva ballclub over there, and those four county guys have done us well," said Youse. "We have better pitching than last year's ballclub and you can say that's because of Bullock and Foster."
Foster, who hit .462 with four homers and 22 RBI while going 5-1 for state 4A champion Old Mill in '89, has sparkled the last two springs at the University of Richmond. But last summer was his crowning achievement in baseball as he led Mayo Post through an unprecedented third straight state legion title, the Mid-Atlantic regional and into the legion World Series where Mayo won it all.
In the national finalin Corvallis, Ore., Foster went the distance, scattering eight hits in a 7-6 thriller over Puerto Rico. At the plate, the classy left-hander was 2-for-4 (both doubles) with three RBI as a Maryland team won for only the third time in the 65-year history of the event.
Mayo was the first from Maryland to win it since Cumberland in 1934. Foster played the key role going 2-0 in the national tournament while batting .288 with 10 RBI to take MVP honors. Later, Foster was named the 1990 American Legion Player of the Year.
"He's a good-looking hitter and pitcher, a kid with a bright future," Youse said of Foster, who plays left when not pitching and is hitting the highest among the four county players at .377. Taylor is next at .347.
"Mark is 4-2 pitching for us and has had some rough games, but I attribute that to his being a construction worker during the day. Construction hasn't agreed with him, but he's an outstanding player."
Bullock, who was an All-County and All-Metro performer like Foster and Taylor in '89, hit .529 with 18 RBI for Arundel his senior year. After a fine seasonpitching for the University of Nebraska, the stylish left-hander hasblossomed into a really outstanding pitcher under the expert tutelage of Youse.
"Nobody knows more about pitching than Walter, and nobody has ever made more pitchers than Walter," said Arundel and Mayo coach Bernie Walter, who learned under Youse as the Leone's-Johnny's field manager for 14 years (1966-1979), winning five national titles and going 962-131 in that time.
To date, Bullock is 7-0 for Johnny's with three shutouts in a row.
"Josh has been outstanding, and he's a pretty good hitter, too," said Youse, who uses Bullock (.289) asa DH when he's not pitching.
In only his sophomore year at Nebraska, Bullock went 5-5 for the Huskers with an ERA of 3.15 in just under 100 innings pitched. His has been a smooth transition from high school to big-time college baseball and what he is learning under Youse should make him even better.
Kahl, who batted .375 with 15 RBI hissenior year at Arundel as second-team All-County catcher behind RickStang of Northeast (.421 and 21 RBI), is batting .289 for Johnny's.
"Kahl is an excellent receiver and pretty good hitter," said Youse.
Kahl played at Anne Arundel Community College this past year forcoach Clayton Jacobson.
"Johnny's does everything like a professional baseball team, serious about the game and that's what I like," said Taylor.
"Of course, the four of us are used to it after playing for Bernie (Walter) who learned under Mr. Youse. You have to do it that way to make it in this game and I love it this way."
The fourobviously believe Walter, who tells one and all, "This is how we have fun, playing baseball everyday. Some people go to Ocean City to have fun. We go to the ballpark to have fun."
Taylor played on two great Mayo teams so when he says this Johnny's team "can and expects towin in Johnstown," for a 10th time in the last 13 years, you have tobelieve him.
"But right now, we can't wait to fly over to Holland," said Taylor.
It's a trip they all have earned.