Rager and Slatcoff

Sam Slatcoff, 6, of Gibsonia, snags a free backpack Thursday prior to the Zanesville versus Martella’s Pharmacy game at Sargent’s Stadium at The Point. Lisa Rager, executive director of the Greater Johnstown/Cambria County Convention and Visitors Bureau is shown with him.

Special events this week in downtown Johnstown have helped to add to the allure of the 75th anniversary of the All American Amateur Baseball Association Tournament.

On Thursday evening, the first 500 fans at Sargent’s Stadium at the Point received free backpacks bearing the tournament’s 75th anniversary logo.

Backpack Night at the stadium was sponsored by the Greater Johnstown/Cambria County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“When you look at 75 years of an event, that’s a very long time,” said CVB Executive Director Lisa Rager. “We’ve done Thunder in the Valley for 22 years and we think that’s a long time, but 75 years is quite the tradition, and we’re excited to be a part of it to help keep it going.”

Rager and fellow CVB staff members were handing out backpack after backpack as people entered the stadium to watch as the Zanesville Junior Pioneers took on Johnstown’s Martella’s Pharmacy.

“It feels great to add to this celebration,” Rager said. “As Visit Johnstown we are promoting tourism and promoting our community to the outside world and we want to show everybody what a great area we have to live, work and visit, so we’re happy to be a part of it.

“People are excited to get a little gift as they come through the gate, and hopefully they’ll remember the 75th for a long time and continue to support AAABA down the road.”

AAABA promotions director Brian Vuletich was smiling from ear to ear as he watched a group of area youth receive their free backpacks before the evening game.

“We’ve had tremendous promotions,” Vuletich said. “People are still talking about the T-shirts from the other night. I think people have really gotten into the 75th anniversary celebration.

“The talk all over town is ‘We’ve enjoyed it and we just hope that Martella’s goes back-to-back.’ ”

Morris Banks, of Blair County, was sporting his free commemorative backpack during the game. The self-proclaimed baseball fanatic said he makes his way to Johnstown to catch at least one AAABA tournament game each year, regardless of whether there’s an Altoona team playing or not.

“I think it’s nice that organizations are doing little things like this, but I just love the game, and these guys are playing full-heartedly in hopes of taking it to the next level,” Banks said. “It’s not about a check for these guys – it’s really just about the game itself.”

Ronald Fisher is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @FisherSince_82.

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