Monday's Schedule

Carpenter's Team a Tribute

Plus tournament odds and ends

By Brian Varmecky

Paul Carpenter's team a tribute to late father-in-law

In the dug out of Johnstown's Paul Carpenter Capital Advisors sat a framed picture of Michael Hammers, the father-in-law of team owner Paul Carpenter. Two years ago when Mister Carpenter read in the Tribune-Democrat that the Berkley Hills Renegades team was in jeopardy of folding, it was the memory of Mister Hammers that prompted him to take action.

"I just reading the morning paper and it said we may go down to four teams from five and I just felt MIke saying 'don't let that happen'," said Carpenter. "I put a call in and found out how much the price was, and it's about the same to sponsor a team as it is to advertise on any media for a year, so I thought why not give some more guys a chance to play baseball. I really believe in supporting the local area because Johnstown is my hometown, too. I have a business here and it's patronized by all the fine people of this area and it's time to give a little bit back."That's pretty much why I'm sponsoring this team: it was to pay tribute to my father-in-law and also to try to do some good for the city."

Photo of the late
Michael Hammers
in the PCCA dugout
Paul Carpenter Capital Advisors
standings for the anthem prior
to Saturday's championship game

Although Mister Carpenter has never been a big baseball fan, his father-in-law was devoted to the AAABA tournament. Carpenter tells us that Mister Hammers was a delivery man for Penn News and would deliver newspapers and magazines to the store in town. Carpenter's grandmother owned a store on Railroad Street, which is how he met his father-in-law, although prior to dating his future wife. ("When I started dating Cathy I didn't even put the two and two together," added Carpenter) As many Johnstowner do even to this day, Hammers would take vacation during early August so that he could attend as many AAABA games as possible. He would keep a radio in his ear, too, to keep up with every pitch.

Paul Carpenter bought the team in 2015 and competed that season as the Renegades since it was to late to purchase new uniforms. This year was their first season as PCCA and finished third (16-16) against the other local teams: Martella's Pharmacy, Laurel Auto Group, First Commonwealth Bank, and Ophthalmic Associates.

"My coaches and my general manager said 'we got a young team and we're gonna do it'," recalled Carpenter. "We finished third this year and I thought, well that's that, but then by some divine intervention we knocked off Laurel Auto Group [in the playoffs] to make it into the tournament. And then to make it this far is just a dream come true, actually. It would have been better if we had went all the way, and I know these guys really tried--they gave every ounce--but we faced some tough pitching today."

Carpenter took pride in being able to give this team a chance in the tournament, citing a Tribune-Democrat article earlier in the week that quoted Evan Price as having dreamt of playing in the tournament since he was a bat boy. "I guess I'll have to do it again next year, too," added Carpenter with a chuckle. Hopefully for the team and for the Johnstown fans, the Carpenters (or the Hammers) will enjoy as much and maybe more success as they did this season.

Scheduling Frustrations

A lot of fans were not happy that all the games this year started at 11am. I do not know the reasoning behind the scheduling, but it obviously prevented fans from attending as many games as in the past. This tournament week is a big deal for Johnstowners and many like to take vacation during the week or work half-days to attend the games. But with them all scheduled at the same time, fans were limited to 2 games per day. Additionally, the pre-noon start meant that the businessmen and women working mornings had to arrive late (or not at all) for the games.

There is also the baffling question of why more games aren't played at Point Stadium. The schedule from a few years ago with a 10am, 1pm, and 7pm game at Point Stadium seemed to be a good fit. This year the Point only had two games per day. That decision is also perplexing considering that some of the outlying fields lack public address announcers and some do not even have working scoreboards.

In the future, this reporter would like to see the tournament offer more staggered starts to the games so that fans have a better chance of attending multiple games in one day. If Westmont plays at 10am, start Roxbury at 1pm. If Portage begins at 10am, begin Lilly at 1pm. And try to schedule games at or after lunch so that fans can make it down in the afternoon.

I'm sure there are other restrictions on the schedules that I am not aware of, but hopefully the Association and the Oldtimers can create a better arrangement for next tournament.

On the bright side, we had good weather this week, excusing the downpour on opening night. All games were played on time except for opening night and one game at Fichtner. That added to the strong showing from Johnstown has hopefully resulted in a strong week financially for the AAABA.

Still not a fan of pool play

Hopefully this will be the only year for pool play. As I stressed before the tournament, it is a fundamentally inferior method for determining a champion. Zanesvile won the tournament fair and square this year and they rightfully deserve the title as national champions, of course. It is not their fault the system was changed and their wins against Livonia, New Orleans, Chicago, and Johnstown were the real deal.

But consider the fate of Martella's Pharmacy from Johnstown. While their ninth inning collapse was the primary cause of their elimination from pol play (despite a 2-1 record), the fact remains that the Pharmacist's best option was to forfeit the game. Or if that were not allowed, to never run on a batted ball. The reason is because they were guaranteed a spot in the finals if they lost so long as they did not score any runs. Once they scored their third run on Wednesday night, winning became imperative. So they were actually punished for scoring so many runs that game. They would have been rewarded for throwing the game. Is that really the kind of situation we want to put teams in during the tournament? Brackets are so much simpler and much more fair because it is simply win and loss. A loss is always bad and a win is always good.

There are times and places when pool play is acceptable but those situations are always when better forms of play are not possible. Pool play is a back-up plan for when brackets are too difficult to orchestrate. But the AAABA already had a great bracket system in place that was fair to all the teams and simple for the fans to understand.

If the association is still determined to offer every team a guaranteed third game, then just place the four 0-2 teams into a consolation game against each other. They will be outside the brackets and not counted in statistics, but at least they'll get their third game. Or as I suggested earlier in the week, have them compete in a skills competition on Wednesday night. It would be a fun and unique event that should entertain both players and fans alike.

It was frustrating this year to see Philadelphia, Buffalo, New Brunswick, and Johnstown have to sacrifice their second loss so that Altoona, Baltimore, and Youngstown could lose a third game. (New York won their third game, but still did not advance in the tournament) Why does the association want a system where winning teams are punished for the sake of losing teams?

I think using pool play has a much greater risk of alienating our existing franchises and current fans than it does of attracting new teams to the tournament and I will continue to campaign against it in favor of the traditional bracket system. I have no say in the association, of course, but hopefully enough managers and representatives will agree on this that we can return to a double-elimination format for next year and all following years.

Lots of excitement this year

Pool play aside, there was a lot of excitement this year on the field. The games on Thursday and Friday were incredibly intense with close scores and comebacks galore. Zanesville beat New Orleans and Chicago! Buffalo beat New Orleans, too! (Sorry to beat up on the Boosters; it's impressive only because they are so good) Johnstown rallied with a huge home run in the eighth inning to advance to the championship! The games were tight all week long and kept fans guessing as far as who would advance. Pool play's inherent flaws do allow for more upsets and underdogs to advance since teams are permitted fewer mistakes, so we were able to see some new faces competing later in the week.

Hopefully the parity was the result of improvements from the programs and not just the structural change, because then we can have the hope for similarly close contests and outcomes in next year's tournament.


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