The AAABA Tournament is set to go international with the addition of a franchise based in Ottawa, Canada.
The 76th AAABA Tournament is scheduled to begin on Aug. 2 at Sargent’s Stadium at the Point and outlying fields. The 2020 tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but organizers are hoping to resume play and welcome the newest franchise, the Capital City Reds.
The Reds play in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League in Ottawa. In addition to the college-level league, the Capital City organization fields teams in the Under-18, Under-16 and Special Needs levels.
“The Capital City Reds are going into our seventh year now. We started up summer collegiate ball, and we’d always been an independent program,” said Roch Seguin, president of the Capital City franchise and coach of the college-level team. “We’re up in Canada. It’s hard to find a league where we can actually play in at that caliber of ball.”
Capital City, which has had teams compete in the NABF World Series on a regular basis, said participants in that tournament recommended AAABA baseball to the Reds.
“We finish every year with the NABF College World Series in Toledo, Ohio,” Seguin said. “Every year there are teams in Toledo that tell us we should join the AAABA and that it’s a great organization and a great tournament.”
AAABA Executive Director John Austin of Altoona is excited about the addition of two new franchises, including the Salisbury, North Carolina, team approved during the national meeting held in October.
“We’ve been trying to get franchises for quite a few years,” said Austin, who also heads the franchise committee. “With us getting the North Carolina franchise approved in October and the Canadian team in January, it brings us back to where we wanted to be. Johnstown will be the only franchise to have two teams in the national tournament.”
The Ottawa team will be the first Canadian franchise to play in the AAABA Tournament since the former Toronto, Ontario, team participated in six tournaments from 1964 to 1970. Toronto appeared in 16 games, with four wins, three of those during the 1970 tournament.
“I’m very excited that we’ve been able to get a new franchise from Canada, which makes us an international tournament,” said George Arcurio III, president of the Johnstown Oldtimers Baseball Association that sponsors the annual tournament. “Combined with the new North Carolina franchise, I’m looking forward to this growth.
“Now we need to get rid of COVID-19 and do what we have to do to keep this tournament in Johnstown,” Arcurio added.
Both Arcurio and Austin said they plan to hold the August event, but noted that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact sponsorship revenue. There also is uncertainty regarding where teams would be housed if area hotels or the Pitt-Johnstown dormitories remain unavailable.
Arcurio said Austin has diligently worked on ways to adapt by using only local umpires and reducing the crew sizes until the championship rounds.
Arcurio said proposals to play the tournament in four days, with all teams playing doubleheaders, are being considered. He didn’t rule out the possibility of seeking a major corporate sponsor.
“George and I both have a positive outlook that it’s going to happen,” Austin said. “I’m working closely with him in regards to trying to get the financial backing.
“We don’t know how many fans will be allowed in the stands on Aug. 1. A lot of unanswered questions. We’re just hoping and trying. There may be a couple of changes made to the format to cut costs.”
Seguin hopes his team, as well as the new Salisbury squad, will have a chance to visit Johnstown this summer.
“We’ll most likely be coming down by bus. It’s a 10- or 12-hour drive,” Seguin said. “We recruit players from all over the world. It’s not an all-Canadian roster. We usually go half Canadian. Most of the players are local guys. The rest are from all over. I’ve had players from Australia, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. We have an international flavor.
“I’m really looking forward to this. We always look to improve on years past,” he added. “Getting into the AAABA is a step forward as an organization. The players are looking forward to this. Hopefully COVID stays away and we’re able to get a good season under our belt and come down to Johnstown.”