The All American Amateur Baseball Association will not hold a regional tournament in Altoona this year because the Schenectady, New York, franchise’s league disbanded, according to John Austin, the AAABA national franchise chairman who coordinates the regional event in Blair County.
“This is a financial issue involved with the (Schenectady) league, and they had to fold the league,” Austin said.
“Bob Godlewski said next year they hope to return,” Austin said of Schenectady franchise representative and former team manager Godlewski.
Godlewski played in the 1969 AAABA Tournament and eventually helped revive the Schenectady program in 1990.
In the past year, he started a baseball program at the College of St. Joseph in Rutland, Vermont, near his home. He also is the director of athletics and works in the public safety department.
His baseball team advanced to the United States Collegiate Athletic Association World Series this spring.
“I’ve run the summer (AAABA) programs the last 40 years and raised the money,” Godlewski said Tuesday. “This year, I took on too much. I’ve seen myself going more and more into my pocket.
“I looked at it and said, ‘We’re going to close up shop this summer. I can’t afford to do it.’ We’ll be back next year,” he said. “I need other people who want to stay involved. I know the administrative end and how to raise money. This past year, our college team went to the World Series. We played 64 games. Before you knew it, it was the middle of May and I hadn’t done anything (for the AAABA).”
‘Found a solution’
The Altoona Regional was scheduled to begin on July 31 and include host Altoona, New York City, New Brunswick and Schenectady. As a regional host city, Altoona receives an automatic berth in the 71st AAABA Tournament, which begins on Aug. 10 in Johnstown.
Rather than have teams from New Jersey and New York travel five or more hours to Altoona to compete for the remaining berth in Johnstown, Austin proposed a series between New York City and New Brunswick.
The franchise committee, which also includes national AAABA president George Arcurio III and Youngstown representative Bob Mingo, approved the proposal.
Both franchises agreed that New Brunswick will host New York City in a best-of-3 series on Aug. 1.
“New York City will have a 52-minute drive for a best-of-3,” Austin said. “Two games will be on Saturday, and if a third is necessary, it will be on Sunday.”
The Altoona Regional has a lengthy tradition in the AAABA dating back to 1974.
The city has hosted regional tournaments for 40 years. Altoona even hosted the national AAABA Tournament in 1977, when Point Stadium was damaged by the Johnstown Flood that summer.
An AAABA Hall of Famer and past national president, Austin has directed the regional for decades.
“We worked it out and found a solution,” Austin said. “My only disappointment is I have gone out and raised money to host my regional. I know it is disappointing to the advertisers and sponsors who support us. I hope they will stick by me next year.”
The Zanesville Regional will continue as planned, Austin said, with Chicago South Shore, Cleveland and Zanesville participating.
“This year, Zanesville must win their regional in order to advance to Johnstown because they are playing this regional under penalty,” said Austin, who noted the penalty resulted from a registration issue two years ago.
‘We’ll be back’
Schenectady has deep roots in the AAABA, though the franchise had stretches when it didn’t participate in the organization.
Schenectady was runner-up to Amsterdam in the inaugural 1945 AAABA Tournament in Johnstown and played again when the event was moved to Washington, D.C., for one year in 1946. Overall, Schenectady has a 51-70 record in 35 AAABA Tournaments.
The franchise has participated in AAABA competition for 48 seasons and has been a steady presence in the AAABA Tournament since 1990 under Godlewski’s leadership.
Last year, Schenectady won the AAABA Tournament Sportsmanship Award after going 2-2 in Johnstown.
“AAABA has been my life,” Godlewski said. “We’ll be back next year. I’ll take the blame on it this year. I took too much on. It’s my job. I had to do it. Other things suffered.”
Godlewski did play a role in helping the AAABA land its new franchise in Boston.
“I was involved in getting the new BASE program in Boston to come to the AAABA,” he said. “I’m tight with them in Boston. In all the years I’ve been around baseball, they’ve got the best-run organization I’ve seen.”
Arcurio is confident Schenectady will be back in the AAABA fold next year.
“Bob Godlewski has been first class since the day I met him,” Arcurio said. “He’s always put a representative team on the field in Johnstown. He’s one of the biggest supporters we have in the AAABA. If Bob Godlewski says they’re coming back in 2016, I believe it.
“As far as the regional, this is the smart thing to do rather than have those teams travel to Altoona. Hopefully next year we’ll be back to full capacity.”