Watch out! Oriolelanders challenging local all-stars

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Archbishop Spalding's Tom Lind, the 1992 Anne Arundel County Sun High School Baseball Coach of the Year, has joined the coaching staff of the Arundel Suns for the 13th Annual Oriolelanders All Star Baseball Game. Lind will be one of the talent evaluators 11 a.m. Wednesday at Joe Cannon Stadium for the opening tryouts.

The showcase game is set for a 1 p.m. doubleheader Sunday, Sept. 6, at Joe Cannon Stadium in Harman's. The Arundel Suns consist of Anne Arundel County residents or players ages 15 to 21 who will play the Oriolelanders, a hand-picked team from the state and mid-Atlantic area.

Baltimore Orioles scouting supervisor Jim Gilbert and staff select a fall team of the top high school seniors from the state and immediate area. Many of the Oriolelanders are considered professional prospects by the Orioles and other big league clubs.

Lind will assist in the selection of Anne Arundel's best 15 to 21 players who try out this week for the prestigious team.

Last spring, Lind led the Spalding Cavaliers into the Maryland Scholastic Association "A" Conference playoffs for the first time ever. It was a dramatic turnaround from Lind's 2-12 inaugural in 1991.

While this season was only his second at Spalding, Lind is long removed from "rookie" coach status. The white-haired 64-year-old brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Severn School. The Anne Arundel County Sun is honored that he has accepted coaching duty for our All Star Game.

Lind came out of Mount Saint Joseph High and Loyola College in Baltimore as one of the best middle infielders ever to play in the metro area. After a brief stint in professional baseball, Lind first coached at Loyola High in Towson and in 1973 began an 18-year run as coach of the Cheverly American Legion Post team in Prince George's County.

Together with former Bowie High coach Bill "Bumps" Vaughn, Lind established Cheverly as the state's most successful American Legion team during the 1970s and '80s. Cheverly advanced to the prestigious American Legion World Series back-to-back in 1974 and 1975.

Winning league and state championships was not Cheverly's only contribution during the Lind era. The 18-and-under team also produced scores of college baseball players, many of whom received athletic scholarships.

Obviously Lind is a keen judge of talent and should be a valuable asset to selecting the Suns' final team this week. Last year's squad consisted of 27 players, 10 of whom were pitchers and a similar group should be the magic number for this year. With two seven-inning games on tap this year for the first time, the opportunity to showcase the pitchers is there.

High school players and junior college players are eligible to try out Wednesday, but those attending four-year universities that conduct fall baseball programs are not permitted under NCAA rules.

Players are urged to be in uniform and bring their own equipment. In the event of inclement weather, call the 24-Hour Sportsline at 647-2499 for information about postponement to the rain date on Thursday.

Candidates unable to attend the first workout should call the 24-Hour Sportsline. Legitimate excuses will be honored.

The final team will be announced on Aug. 31, and the Arundel Suns will be featured with the Oriolelanders team in our Sept. 6 issue.

Nearly 90 players who have appeared in this sand-lot baseball showcase in the first 12 years have signed with or been drafted by major league teams. Seven players on last year's Oriolelanders' squad were selected in the June Major League Baseball Free Agent Draft.

Glen Burnie High left-hander Tony Saunders, a member of The Anne Arundel County Sun All-County Baseball Team, pitched for the Oriolelanders and signed in June with the expansion Florida Marlins.

Saunders pitched for the Suns in 1990, but moved with his mother to Howard County that fall. After pitching a year at Howard High and subsequently with Gilbert's fall Oriolelanders team, Saunders transferred back to Glen Burnie.

At last check, Saunders was 4-1 with an ERA of 1.28 for the Marlins' Rookie Team in Gulf Coast, Florida.

In my first column back from vacation on Friday, I alluded to the "baseball boom" occurring in our county with the growth of teen programs and the Chesapeake Seniors League for players aged 30 and over.

That prompted a phone call to the 24-Hour Sportsline from Northeast High outfielder Tony Pente. Pente, who graduated in 1988 after playing under coach Harry Lentz, called to tell me that an 18-and-over Men's Adult Baseball League also has been formed.

The new league with many former county players is affiliated with the Men's Senior Baseball League that was started five years ago by New Yorker Steve Sigler.

"We've started an 18-and-over league this fall with Sunday doubleheaders and next year we will go from April to October," said Pente.

"It's our goal to get all the best players in the area to play in this league next year," he said.

Pente and a few Northeast graduates -- Jason Herold (1988), Brian Grantland and Kenny Basta (1989) and Joe Hoyer (1992) -- plus Tim Butz, a Brooklyn Park graduate (1988), have formed the Blue Sox to play in the new league.

"We're calling our team the Blue Sox because we don't have a sponsor yet," said Pente.

Pente is optimistic that the new league will fly in 1993.

On the negative side of the diamond, I admit to being shocked to learn during my vacation that the Severna Park American Legion Post No. 175 team did not win the State Tournament in Hagerstown.

Severna Park was the favorite after winning the local county Legion league, but went only 2-2 in the state tournament and was eliminated 5-4 in 10 innings by Francis Scott Key Post 11 on Aug. 12.

It was a disappointing effort from a team that had great expectations. Five members of the Legion team were on our All-County First Team this spring, and three of them made The Sun's First Team All-Metro Team.

Severna Park's Rob McCandless (p-inf), Steve Neuberger (of) and John Milisitz (c) were All-County players on the Legion 175 team along with Jeff Paxson (2b) of Spalding and Jeff Vincent (p-ss) of Broadneck. McCandless, Neuberger and Vincent were All-Metro First Team with Paxson and Milisitz named second team All-Met.

Throw in another Broadneck star in Matt Weimer (p-of) with the legion team, not to mention a host of excellent players from the ninth-ranked Severna Park High School team (17-3) and one has to ask, "How did they lose the State Legion Tournament?"

It could be one of three reasons: first, this group might have been a victim of that old baseball disease called snakebite. The nucleus of the Legion team was the heart and soul of the Severna Park High team that, despite being the county's best team this spring and ranked nationally several weeks, did not get past the first round of the Region IV playoffs.

Yes, you could the say the group was snake-bitten.

You could also say it was one of those potentially great teams that never fulfilled its potential because it never really learned how to win. We've often seen teams like this and to say they didn't reach their potential is nicer than saying they choked.

Finally, you could reason that Severna Park Legion coaches Charlie Becker and Jim McCandless (Rob's older brother) convinced their players they couldn't hit. Every coach has his own approach to motivating his players.

Some coaches like to praise their team to the high heaven and make them feel as if they are invincible while others use the negative approach, as Becker and McCandless did. It has worked both ways, and it has backfired both ways.

In this case, it backfired.

To everyone who would listen, the Severna Park Legion coaches said theirs was not a good hitting ball club. Opposing coaches and this columnist said otherwise.

A week before the State Legion Tournament, I wrote that Post 175 had a great hitting club and Walter agreed. The high school batting averages of the their top hitters -- McCandless (.442), Neuberger (.491), Vincent (.437), Paxson (.422) and Milisitz (.508) -- supported my claim.

Just maybe, the Legion coaches should have said, "We have a group of proven hitters who haven't hit well this summer but we expect them to hit in the state tournament," instead of saying, "Hitting is our problem."

It seems the guys believed Becker and McCandless instead of believing me and Walter. Oh, the power of positive thinking. It makes you believe you can hit and win.

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