Martella's 2018 AAABA

A Sargent’s Stadium at The Point crowd watches Martella’s Pharmacy battle New Orleans in the 2018 AAABA championship game on Saturday, August 11.

The AAABA Tournament will welcome a North Carolina franchise for the first time in the history of the storied event.

AAABA Executive Director John Austin said the Salisbury, North Carolina, representative was approved during the organization’s annual meeting in Washington (Pa.) last weekend.

“They were voted in unanimously,” Austin said. “The franchise received a 3-0 vote from the franchise committee, a 6-0 vote by the executive committee and the vote was 14-0 overall on Sunday during the last day of the annual meeting.”

There now are 14 active AAABA franchise cities.

Johnstown has had two teams enter the AAABA Tournament each year it’s been held since 2009, which means there are 15 teams set for the 76th AAABA Tournament scheduled in August 2021.

“Altoona or Brooklyn will add a second team for the 16th team (in 2021),” Austin said.

The 2020 AAABA Tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The coronavirus hindered fundraising efforts and created uncertainty about the ability to house and feed players. Some AAABA cities were COVID-19 “hot spots,” which made it unclear how many teams actually would participate in the event scheduled in 2020.

“I’m very excited about the new franchise,” said George Arcurio III, president of the Johnstown Oldtimers Baseball Association, sponsor of the AAABA Tournament. “Hopefully this is going to be the start of something very, very good.”

Arcurio said the COVID-19 pandemic still might impact the 2021 event.

“We will continue to monitor the situation and how it might affect the tournament,” Arcurio said.

The AAABA also extended the terms of national President Mike Gossner of Philadelphia, Vice President Bob Mingo of Youngstown, Secretary-Treasurer Bill Fertitta of Milford, Massachusetts, and Executive Director Austin of Altoona.

A cost-saving proposal to use local umpires throughout the tournament received overwhelming support, Austin said.

Also approved was a proposal to use two-person umpire crews for early rounds of the tournament, three-person crews for the semifinal rounds, and four umpires for the title game, Austin said.

For many years, the tournament had “out-of-town” umpires work games involving the Johnstown teams. The AAABA Tournament also used four-person umpire crews for all games.

“We changed the rule stating that we had to have four out-of-town umpires in the host team games,” Austin said. “Everybody will have to realize the local umpires will umpire the host city games – the early afternoon game and the game at night.”

Austin said the motion passed unanimously by the board of directors (14-0).

“Day 1, 2, 3 and 4 of the tournament we only will use two umpires a game,” Austin said. “We will use three umpires for all semifinal games. We will use four umpires for the championship game.”

The cancellation of the 2020 tournament due to the global pandemic is only the latest financial obstacle facing a tournament accustomed to encountering such challenges. For decades, the AAABA traditionally held its annual meeting in Florida each spring, an event that sometimes included guest speakers such as John Smoltz or trips to major league spring training games.

The autumn meetings, which will be held at sites such as Washington this year and Youngstown in 2021, will represent significant savings, Arcurio said.

Arcurio and Austin both said the national board and the Oldtimers will continue to adapt.

“It would be up to the Johnstown Oldtimers and the national tournament committee to make a decision in the future, but we did discuss that possibly as another cost-saving measure that every team would have to play a doubleheader on Tuesday (during tournament week),” Austin said, noting such talk was only preliminary and not voted on during the meeting. 

Mike Mastovich is a sports reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5083. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.

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