Livonia Hurricanes in 2014

Livonia squad is eager to compete

Hurricanes committed to practice and each other

By Brian Varmecky

The tight-knit Michigan Hurricanes will represent Livonia for a second straight year and are thrilled to be returning to Johnstown. They beat out three other AAABA teams in their summer league and competed well against two unlimited age teams. Their first experience at the tournament last year was an eye-opener, but has filled the team with a strong resolve and fanatical determination

"When we qualified again this year, these guys were elated," said manager Len Makowski. His team enjoys not only the on-field competition, but indeed every aspect of tournament week in Johnstown. "We even look forward to the banquet, we're looking forward to the parade, we're looking forward to going back to being housed at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. They loved that! The whole experience that they had there was just, . . . it transcends baseball for those guys. It's bigger than life."

AAABA tradition is strong in Detroit suburb

"For us in this area, going to that tournament is big. When we say we're going, everybody in our area says that that's the tournament to go to," said Makowski. He tells us that there are many people in Livonia who played in the AAABA tournament with the powerful Detroit franchise. Glenn Gulliver won the tournament in 1974 with Detroit and coached many of today's Hurricanes players at Allen Park High School.

"When Glenn heard last year that we were eligible to come, he told every kid that 'this is your greatest experience'," said Makowski. "He told them where he hit his home run down the right field line. Now, all these young kids who know Glenn, they all want to come back and tell Glenn their experiences in Johnstown and how nice it is."

A team of friends

The strong sense of community felt between past and present AAABA players also permeates through the entire roster of the Hurricanes. Makowsi describes it as a 'neighborhood team.' The core of this team won the USSSA world series as 14-year-olds and were rated as the top team in the country at that age group. Makowski does not hold try outs for his teams, but rather builds his teams based on friendships and recommendations. As a result, the team has strong cohesion and camraderie. According to Makowski:

"In the summer, they all get back together again. They hang out together, they spend the night over each other's house, they go camping. This team will stay together forever. These guys will play slow pitch softball together."

Shocking welcome to tournament in 2014

Not only has the team been together for a long time, but they have had success through most of those years. In addition to the USSSA world series title, they have also had multiple 80+ win seasons. Having experienced so much success during their careers made their first AAABA national tournament game a truly eye-opening experience. On Monday afternoon, New York belted out seven runs in the second inning to take an 8-0 lead and scored at least one run in every inning to mercy-rule the Hurricanes 20-3. The Hurricanes used five pitchers during the contest.

"The first game was a revelation for us. We didn't expect [starter Jared Terrill] to be hit like he was. That was a complete shock to our team," explained Makowski. "The good news was that all the kids that came with me got to play, they got to pitch, got to be a part of it. I got to use those guys who might not have pitched in a close game.  By that happening to us, we got to pitch everybody, so 20 years from now they can say, 'I pitched in Johnstown'."

The Hurricanes responsed on Tuesday with a 9-5 win over Brooklyn at Lilly, but were eliminated by perrenial favorites New Orleans 7-4 at Point Stadium the following day.

Players are committed to tournament

Now that the team knows what to expect at the tournament, the players have committed themselves to making a strong showing in 2015. Makowski tells us that their recent practices have been both frequent and intense.

"I can't stop these guys. If I say to them 'no practice,' they say 'oh, we've gotta practice!' They practiced Tuesday for 2 hours, we practiced [Wednesday] for 2 hours. Now they're talking about going to have the pitchers throw a bull pen [Thursday]."

Since joining in 1981, Livonia has compiled a 53-58 record in 29 tournaments. Their best finished was 2nd place in 1992 by Mike Keller's Walter's Home Applicance team. They have won 2 Livonia regionals ('83 and '86) and 3 Zanesville regionals ('07, '10, '12). The franchise has recorded at least one tournament win in 25 of their 29 tournaments. Of powerhouse Baltimore's 8 loses in the past decade, 3 have been to Livonia, which is the most of any team in that time.

The Livonia/Detroit area has had plenty of success in the AAABA, and with one tournament under their belts, the Hurricanes now personally share in that tradition and understand what is necessary to bring another championship to Michigan. It sounds like the players are taking their mission seriously and will be a team to keep an eye on next week.

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