Thursday, April 13, 2017

Smitten with APBA in the Mitten

Shawn Baier (left, myself) with Pastor Rich Zawadzki (GMABT Host)

There was so much going on in Jackson, Michigan this past weekend... that I had to pack some of the action into separate blogs. Last month's success was just the beginning, while next year's 4th Annual Greater Michigan APBA Baseball Tournament had already signed up 42 participants, within 5 days of the last tournament!

It's hard to believe that just under 4 years ago, is when I made the trip to Chicago with Rich, which would be the 1st APBA Tournaments for both of us, in November 2013; It was at that tournament we got to meet our friend Doug Schuyler (who was running the Chicagoland Tournament) face-to-face for the first time. Rich would eventually make the decision to host an APBA Tournament of his own in Jackson, Michigan -- with the 1st Annual Greater Michigan APBA Baseball Tournament debuting in March 2015.

November 2013 (L to R): Schuyler, Zawadzki & Baier.
With the GMABT & Chicagoland taking off, it led to other tournaments in Pittsburgh, Toledo, Illinois (Praireland), Wisconsin & Virginia. There has also been talks of New York & Florida getting in on the action, while the GMABT & Chicagoland also helped the existing Twin Cities tourney grow as larger. There will also be a tournament taking place this summer at the APBA birthplace of Lancaster, Pennsylvania as well.

GMABT III Action - Facing Ron Emch (right) for 3rd year straight.
The hunger for these tournaments have spread like wildfire across the country, and for good reason, they are tons of fun while you get to meet new friends that love the game of baseball & love the game we all grew up in APBA Baseball. There is nothing like this community, nothing close, this is really my family away from family.

The more and more of these events that you go to, the more you get to know them through the years. I have been friends with Eric Berg (above) now for a few years, we first met at the first GMABT in 2015, he had the privilege of playing my brother Chris in their opening bracket; Chris would go on to the GMABT Championship Game against John Roels. I have been to 5 APBA Baseball Tournaments & Eric was present for 4 of them; He was not present for the 2013 Winter-Edition of the Chicagoland World Series. Like myself, Eric has had the privilege of winning an APBA Tournament, he won the 2016 Wisconsin ABPA Baseball Tournament.

You can also catch information of the up-coming Praireland APBA Baseball Tournament on his blog...

I've also had the joy of meeting Ken Schulz, through the years even before we officially met, he has sold & given me free APBA Baseball Cards. We would have many conversations online & finally got to meet at the 1st Greater Michigan APBA Baseball Tournament; He has followed Rich Zawadzki down two paths, one in hosting a tournament -- The Linda B. Schulz Memorial Tournament (Pittsburgh) & another path with a future in the Church.

Ron Emch got a bit of redemption on me during this year's Greater Michigan tourney. Coming into the tournament, we have played each other in the two previous tourneys, and I owned a 3-1 career record; This year, he defeated my 1901 Pirates with his 1909 Detroit Tigers by the scores of 5-0 & 5-2 -- he was off to a great start (but ended 3-5), while I started out in a 0-3 hole with a -11 scoring differential (but ended up 4-4).

His Tigers that caused havoc for me: Sam Crawford (3-for-7, 2B, 3B, 2 RBI & steal), Donie Bush (3-for-8, 3 RBI & 3 steals) & Ty Cobb (3-for-6, 2 RBI & 3 steals).

My friend Ron hosts the Glass City APBA Baseball Tournament in the Toledo area, this September it will be his 3rd event.

Sleep-deprived me on left, buddy Rob Spatz on right.

Had the joy to hang out with my friends Rob Spatz and Kurt Bergland at the Baymont Inn, the night before the tournament, played an exhibition against Kurt's 1919 Cleveland Indians (which I lost). Both Rob & Kurt also run tournaments, Kurt runs the newly made Wisconsin APBA Baseball Tournament, while Rob took over for Schuyler, by running the Chicagoland Tournaments.

My friend Allen Shock almost made the playoffs after a solid start, but he ran out of luck in a very tough division.

My friend Dave Rueck was unfortunately not able to attend the tournament, due to family matters... which opened up the door for Kate Silvis to fill in nicely, playing his 1913 New York Giants in our Walter Johnson division; Kate came here with her husband Brian & their son Phillip. It was a pleasure to roll against her, even if that meant her closing the doors on my 1901 Pirates' wildcard hopes that last game of the opening bracket.... she crushed me, 8-1.

Last, but certainly not least, I finally got a picture with the Watkins brothers as well, David and Wendell Watkins. For the Jackson tournaments, it really started with these two for me, their joy and exuberance from the get-go of the 1st Annual GMABT sticks in my mind. Wendell and I, had a chance to play against each other in the first tournament (shown above), while David battled my brother Chris Baier in his division that year.

(Left to right) Korreck, Wendell, myself & David.
I also got to know G.F. Korreck more, which I really didn't get the chance to talk to him at the prior tournaments, he is from the Grand Rapids area & usually plays from time-to-time with locals John Roels & Dick Butler, two APBA friends & GMABT regulars. I was not so kind to G.F's 1905 New York Giants unfortunately, as I outscored them in two games, 17-6.

All of these things, combined above, plus all not mentioned is many of the reasons that I keep coming back to the Greater Michigan APBA Baseball Tournament. Sure, it's close by, on the local side for me, but it's always great to be reunited with my APBA family, and I was so glad that my wife got to experience the fun-filled event with me as well.

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