Wednesday, April 14, 2021

CCBL has big plans for new season … and beyond

It may seem a bit early to start thinking about summer and baseball, but it’s certainly not to the leaders of the Centre County Baseball League.

These guys steadfastly played their game through last year, and are beginning to look forward to bigger and even better things to come in 2021. Of course, thinking back to the summer of 2020 can only bring back bleak memories of quarantines, closed restaurants and businesses, sad and disturbing Covid statistics and disruptions in almost every aspect of daily life.

It was difficult to find anything that was even close to being “normal.” Yet somehow, through all of that, the CCBL managed to stage a very successful 15-game regular season that was capped with four entertaining and unpredictable playoff series. The Lemont Ducks, a team that had somewhat faded from the top tiers of the league, put together a torrid stretch at the plate and swept through to their first CCBL Championship since 2013.

Lemont first eliminated Howard, 3-1, in a high-scoring and sometimes testy semifinal, and then swept Pleasant Gap, 3-0, in the finals to complete its journey back to the top of the league.

“We just trusted each other and got through this, and I think that’s what everybody needed,” Lemont coach Cam Aungst said at the time. “Just going out and playing baseball was awesome.”

Now, after recently conducting its annual reorganizing meeting, the league would not only like to build a new season based on last season’s successes but also begin to build itself back closer to its former status as a top-flight twilight baseball league.

“We were very careful to include everybody in our planning for last year,” CCBL president Tony Rider said. “We wanted to make sure every team and all the players were comfortable with how the games were run and how everything was organized. We wanted it to be as normal as possible. “It ended up that we were able to play a complete 15-game schedule, although there were some problems getting them all in during the last two weeks. It’s hard in mid-season getting everyone together and there were some make-ups and postponements that had to be played. But we were very happy with how things turned out and how the playoffs went. Mostly, though, everyone was really happy to be out playing baseball.”

Rider said that at the organizational meeting it was decided to pursue normal operations this year and play a regular season beginning on Mother’s Day, which is the traditional opening day for the league, and progressing to the playoffs in July. The league is also looking into the possibility of playing an all-star game, hopefully against one of the other leagues an adjoining county. Presently, the Centre County Baseball League will play with six teams — Lemont, Blanchard, Pleasant Gap, Howard, Spring Mills, and a new entry from Spring Creek.

There is a strong sentiment, however, for expansion, and the league would be very interested to hear from any group that would like to join. According to Howard pitcher Brian Pelka, who will be entering his 24th season in the CCBL, it would be an improvement to see more teams in the league. “Six teams is a little bare bones,” Pelka said, “and it would be nice to see more teams. It’s not easy organizing and managing a team. It takes a lot of work and time, but it is very rewarding.”

Rider said that there is more than enough time to accommodate a new entry. The schedule is not finalized until late April, and teams will not begin play until May 9. New teams would have to have uniforms, an acceptable field and be able to share in the financial obligations of the league. Anyone interested should contact Tony Rider at [email protected].