Brooklyn Bonnie Rams in 2013

Brooklyn Bonnies Return

Fifth tournament in seven years

After a hard-fought series in Brooklyn, the Bonnie Rams won the right to represent their city in this year's AAABA tournament. They will once again be led by veteran manager Jerry Katzke.

"We are thrilled to be able to go to Johnstown," said Katzke, who is returning for his 8th tournament and 5th in the past 7 years. "To me, it's the best tournament in the country. Teams really look forward to it and they really feel like they're in a real World Series."

Katzke first brought his team to Johnstown in 1983 and has made 6 returns since then, compiling a 12-14 record. Their best finish was 3rd in 2009, which included a thrilling 6-5 extra inning victory over host Johnstown. Brooklyn is a charter member of the AAABA and has an overall record of 98-109 in 57 tournaments. The franchise has won 4 championship, most recently in 1994.

Battled with Youth Service

The Bonnies have a 36-23 overall record this season between their four leagues. They are 13-11 in the West Chester Baseball Association, 9-5 in the Parade Ground Open Weekend League, and 8-2 in the Parade Ground Open Night League. The Rams qualify for the AAABA in the Parade Ground Senior League. With the departure of the Brooklyn Cougars, the Rams played a 9-game series against the Youth Service League. The teams split 3 double-headers over the summer. The Rams won 5-4 and then lost 2-4 in the opening series. Youth Service won 4-0 and then lost 10-3 in the second.

With the series tied 2-2, the teams met for their only non-doubleheader and it turned out to be the most exciting game of the series. Youth Service led 4-2 entering the final inning. The Rams had men on 1st and 2nd with 2 outs when clean-up hitter James Smith hit a ball over the centerfielder's head to tie the game at 4. The Rams went on to win the game 5-4 in extra innings. The teams split the next double-header (6-4 Rams, 8-6 YSL), including a game where Youth Service rallied for 4 late runs themselves.

The Bonnies were leading the series 4-3 when Youth Service left to compete in the AABC Connie Mack regional. Youth Service won the regional and advanced to the Connie Mack World Series. As a result, they were unable to complete the final two games of the Parade Ground series, which gave the Rams the AAABA berth.

New relationship with Boston

Every year the Bonnies organization takes an Independence Weekend trip to Boston. At the AAABA meeting in March, Katzke met the leader of the new Boston AAABA franchise, Jimmy Caruso, and the two struck up a friendship. As a result, the Bonnies played a Friday night double-header against the BASE Astros in Boston. The teams tied their first game 2-2 and Boston won the second 6-3. From the brief series, Katzke acknowledges that Boston is not of the same caliber as powerhouses Baltimore or New Orleans, but believes that they will be a competitive team in the tournament. The Brooklyn / Boston series was a success for both parties, and Katzke expects to make the trip annually.

"[Jerry] is a fantastic guy," said Boston franchise representative Jimmy Caruso. "He does a great job with that program."

"I described how great of a tournament it is and that the competition is very strong," said Katzke about Caruso. "He's got some fairly experienced players, so it will be interesting to see how they do."

Many First Timers

While the Boston club has experience in other tournaments, this will be their first time in Johnstown. For Brooklyn, the same holds true. The only Ram with AAABA tournament experience is secondbaseman Johnny Faison, who was 2-for-5 in the 2013 tournament. He will be batting in the third spot. Also returning is former player Jonathan Piniero, who has played in the tournament with both the Rams and also last season with Youth Service. He is past the AAABA age limit, but will return as a coach and is expected to provide veteran leadership for the new players.

While Brooklyn does not boast any Division 1 players or draft picks, they do have players coming from schools with strong baseball programs. James Smith--who had that big hit against Youth Service this year--will be attending San Jacinto Community College in Texas. Tyrell Hardy will also be attending a top Texas community college program at Alvin Community College. Isiah Nunez attends Division II Stonehill College in Massachusetts and Lorenzo Vazquez plays for Division II Eckerd College in Florida. Andres Ruiz has been the Bonnies' top catcher this season and attends Fisher College, an NAIA school in Boston. He is joined on the Bonnies by his college teammates, pitchers Brian Rose and Bryan Dejesus.

Brooklyn is a fan favorite amongst many Johnstowners due to the club's energetic play and lively dug out rituals. While many of the players are new to the tournament, it is safe to expect that the Brooklyn vibe will still be alive and well in this year's edition of the Bonnie Rams.

 

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