The 75th edition of the All American Amateur Baseball Association national tournament was among the best we’ve seen – even though the local team came up just short of a second straight title.
The New Orleans Boosters defeated Johnstown’s Martella’s Pharmacy 5-2 on Saturday night to win the 2019 championship in front of a packed house at Sargent’s Stadium at the Point.
That capped nearly two weeks of fun community events and six days of great baseball and camaraderie around the annual Johnstown tournament.
Paul Carpenter Financial Advisors also represented Johnstown in the tournament.
Taylor Clark of two downtown businesses – Coney Island Lunch and Miller’s Clothing – scoffed at the often-heard statement that “people say there’s nothing to do here in town.”
Taylor and father Randy Clark provided T-shirts for a Tuesday-night promotion at the ballpark, then offered special prices at their eatery after the game that night.
“This tournament is great for the city,” Taylor Clark said, “and it’s great for everyone because people come from other areas just to see this.”
The 75th installment of the AAABA brought the community together in a big way, as the Greater Johnstown/Cambria County Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Johnstown Oldtimers joined with other organizations to put on a series of events aimed at celebrating the shared history of the tournament and the town.
• The AAABA Hall of Fame banquet filled the Pasquerilla Conference Center on Aug. 3 as tournament legends Ron Fiochetta, Kurt Ainsworth, Nelson Figueroa, Roger McDowell and Buck Showalter were inducted and Roberto Clemente Jr. spoke.
• Discover Downtown Johnstown Partnership and The Learning Lamp hosted a movie night in Central Park on Aug. 4, then Discover worked with the Cambria Regional Chamber and the CVB to hold a Little League Night celebration – including a parade – on Wednesday.
• Johnstown Area Heritage Association and The Tribune-Democrat developed a AAABA exhibit at the Johnstown Flood Museum that opened before the tournament and will be available for viewing throughout August. An open house on Aug. 1 included hot dogs, popcorn and Cracker Jack.
• The CVB, Oldtimers and The Tribune-Democrat teamed up for a youth baseball clinic on Aug. 4 featuring former local stars, the New Orleans team and Figueroa. The clinic was followed by a softball game that included many AAABA alumni.
• The CVB hosted Backpack Night at the stadium on Thursday, with fans receiving packs and other prizes as they entered to watch Martella’s play Zanesville.
Martella’s beat Zanesville that night and Philadelphia the next night to reach the AAABA championship against New Orleans for a second consecutive August.
Last year, Martella’s nipped New Orleans 3-2 to become the first Johnstown team to ever win the tournament.
Saturday, New Orleans returned the favor with a 5-2 victory for the 16th AAABA championship for that storied franchise.
Boosters third baseman Grant Schulz was named the tournament’s most valuable player after a two-hit effort against Johnstown.
The rivalry between the teams is growing, even as the love affair between Johnstown and New Orleans builds. The Louisiana squad, led by franchise representative Joe Scheuermann and field manager Darrin Dares, has a strong following in Johnstown because of the cities’ history of supporting each other during natural disasters, and New Orleans’ loyalty to the tournament when other traditional franchises have drifted away.
“New Orleans, they’re an A-1, first-class ball team,” Martella’s Pharmacy manager Jesse Cooper said. “They always come in with a great group of guys, a great coaching staff, a great franchise.”
The Martella’s franchise – players and coaches, sponsor and fan base – is first class, too.
We applaud their success. The runner-up finish may sting now, a year removed from the team finishing on top. But all involved will eventually come to embrace the special run made by this year’s team.
“I told our guys I was so proud of them,” Cooper said.
We’re proud of New Orleans and Martella’s and the other 14 teams that played so well all week long.
We’re proud of the Johnstown and national Oldtimers groups, for hosting another superb tournament. And we’re proud of our community, which rose to the occasion of the AAABA’s 75th anniversary – the organizations that worked so hard to provide events connected with the tournament, and the fans who came out all week to cheer local and visiting teams all the way to Saturday’s thrilling finale.
We can’t wait to see what next year will bring!