1974 Lower Loudoun Champions Coming Home!

by Rodger M. Wood

The Sterling boys who thrilled Sterling, Loudoun County and the Washington Metropolitan Area with their winning exploits the Summer of 1974 are coming home to roost in their laurels.

Friends, fans, supporters, coaches, and players are all invited to remininse with them at a 40th year reunion, 8 -12 PM, Friday, April 25th at O’Malley’s Pub, Sterling Holiday Inn, 45425 Holiday Drive, Sterling VA 20166.

The next day, the team will be honored at a special opening day ceremony at the Little League Field at the Sterling Golf and Tennis Course, 8:30 AM, Saturday, April 26th and all are invited to attend that gala affair too.

Starting in early July, 1974 and lasting to late August, these fifteen, then 14 and 15 year old Sterling VA Lower Loudoun Little League Senior Division baseball players, won 6 straight ball games against long odds and established senior division little league teams from the Shenadoah Valley, Norfolk, Richmond, and North Springfield to win district and State of Virginia championships.

Not ending their winning streak there, they traveled on by airplane to Louisville, KY to beat the odds again by defeating strong State of West Virginia and Kentucky State Champions in a 3-game series to win a Division title.

With no time to lose because of rainouts, they flew out of Louisville after the last game to Atlanta GA, then rode an old rickoty school bus to a little hamlet 20 miles northwest of Athens GA, called Elberton GA where they beat a mighty state of Texas champion but lost twice to a strong Florida team out of Tampa that went on to the National World Series in Gary IND.

Newspaper headlines and articles in the Loudoun Times Mirror, Washington Post, and Evening Star touted the feats of these boys.

Crowds heralded them at “ticker tape” parades and ceremonies twice at Bill Allen Field upon their return from the state and regional tournaments.

The Loudoun Board of Supervisors recognized their outstanding sportsmanship in a proclamation they presented to them at a special session in Leesburg.

These boys who were special in many ways on and off the diamond are coming back home after forty years to enjoy their fields of dreams. The Sterling Community would do well to celebrate their return and special goodness all over again.

1974 Lower Loudoun Little League, Senior Division Roster

Manager: Ben Anch
Bench Coach: Rodger M. Wood
Coach: Hubert Goode
Pitching Coach: Dan Fritz
Coach: Tommy Thompson

Players:
Brent Byer
Billy Dellinger
Chris Donaldson
Danny Fritz (dec.)
Jim Hamrick
John Keesling
Mike Kegley
Tom Meredith
Kevin Miller
Kevin O’Malley
Tom Schray
Curt Sieber (dec.)
Mark Smith
Matt Smith
Skip Young

2013 Season in Review, Part 12. Josh Bell, West Virginia Power

I spotted him hitting in the batting cage hours before a playoff game at

Hagerstown September 6th, and noted instantly from the way he conducted
himself around the cage and stroked the ball inside, I’d need some posed
shots of him that day.

This young Texan turned out to be special in other ways too. He went to a
Jesuit High School (Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas, TX) so you
know he got an outstanding education and learned a few values that would

sustain him in a very secular baseball environment.

Signing with the Pirates for 5 million dollars in August, 2011, he turned
down the dream of every young Texas youth, a full ride scholarship to play
baseball at the University of Texas (Austin).

And after a serious partial meniscus tear the first month of the 2012

season at West Virginia Power, he came back successfully the following
season to hit 279 BA in 459 AB, 75 RS, 37 2B, 2 3B, 13 HR, and drive in 76
RBI to lead his team, the Pittsburgh Pirates Low Class A West Virginia

Power affiliate to SALLY League championship playoffs.

Seeing Josh swinging a bat in the batting cage that hot summer day, working
with him on the photo shoot before the game, and focusing on his all out
hustle, and timely bat in the first playoff game at Hagerstown that

September day was another highlight for me during the 2013

Season 2013 In Review, Part 11. Dave Machemer, Richmond Flying Squirrels

I can’t let a season go by without seeing my favorite manager of all time,

Dave Machemer, who in 2013 was at the helm of the San Francisco Giants, AA-
Eastern League, Richmond Flying Squirrels.

It took me until July 11th this season, but finally I caught up to my old
buddy at Bowie, MD. I first met Mr. Machemer back in 1986 at the old
Stockton CA stadium, where he was managing the Milwaukee Brewers Fast A –
Stockton Ports to a California State League Championship.

In the past 28 seasons since, I have seen Dave at least once a season, and
many seasons more times, helping him to weather the phenomenal 1,604 wins
of his minor league managerial career.

At Bowie this season, I had fun showing his young ball players an old postcard
HOF photographer JD McCarthy took of him in 1978 at old Tiger Stadium when
he played for the Detroit Tigers. The players couldn’t believe that Dave had
so much curley hair sticking out from beneath his cap in his younger days.

I also gave him a reprint Bowman baseball card of old Satchel Paige, whom
he has admired since he met the old HOF RHP back in Kansas City many years
ago.

With over thirty years as a manager and a player in the minors and the
win-lost record he has under his belt, let’s hope the Giants or some other
major league team gives this man a chance to coach or manage in the majors.

I’d sure love to terrorize him next time I see him at at the Nationals
Stadium or somewhere else in the Show, which is exactly where he deserves
to be.

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2013 Season in Review, Part 10. Jake Johansen, Hagerstown Sun

I always like taking the 178 mile round trip down Route 15, past a
“Saturday night,” motel where I count the cars, the little house for sale
in the mountains that like Walter Mitty, I dream about living in, across
the upper Potomac into Maryland, down alternative Route 40 through the
mountain hamlets of Middletown and Boonsboro to Hagerstown, MD, the home at
least for another year, to the Washington Nationals Low A – SALLY
Hagerstown Suns.

Seeing the home club Suns make the playoffs, and beat West Virginia three
straight games in the semi-finals could have been the highlights of my
season in themselves, but my supreme pleasure was seeing an unknown 22-year
old right hander, Jake Johansen, come out of nowhere to pitch 5 innings of
shut out ball to beat the Savannah Sand Gnats in the first game of the
South Atlantic League Championship Series.

The Nationals drafted 6-6 Jake out of Dallas Baptist University in the 2013
draft and assigned him initially to Rookie A- Auburn where he was 1-1, with
a 1.06 ERA, in 10 GS, walking 18 and striking out 44 batters in 42.1 IP.

They then sent him up to Hagerstown where the first week in September, he
got two starts, pitching 9.1 IP with an undistinguished 5.79 ERA.

After he had opened my eyes with his distinguished performance against
Savannah, I made a note of asking Jake to pose for a photo shoot before
the next playoff game. He turned out to be a personable, clean cut, young
man, who personified the type of person you want to see succeed.

And if there’s any justice in this hard world of professional baseball,
you’ll see him succeed, and me get the house I want high up in the moun
tains.

2013 Season Review, Much Promise at Aberdeen, Part 9

After watching them end their regular season on schedule their first 12 seasons, it was pure pleasure seeing the Baltimore Orioles Rookie A youngsters at Aberdeen win their first ever McNamara Division championship, and finally compete in the NY-PA League postseason playoffs.

I had several special days during this stellar season but best recall a day late in the regular season when I shot posed shots of the Iron Birds leading hitter, OF Conor Bierfeldt, and both of the Orioles’ 2013 18-year old, #1 draft picks, RHP Hunter Harvey and CF Josh Hart.

I got a chance for my favorite posed shot, “Racing Back for a Line Shot,” with the two outfielders, Conor Bierfeld and Josh Hart who went through my photography gyrations enthusiastically, without question or complaint.

Being a pitcher in whom the Orioles have a lot invested, and just off a long throwing session in the bullpen before I arrived, Hunter was limited to my standard poses of “Pitching from the Stretch with a Runner at 1B.”

During the regular season and playoffs, Bierfeldt punished NY/PA pitching, hitting 262 BA, 15 2B, 3 3B, 12 HR, 36 RBI in 231 AB in 62 GP.

At GCL until September 1st, Harvey got a chance to show his wares in only 3 GP for Aberdeen, but still showed much promise, striking out 15 and walking only 4 batters in 12 IP.

Josh Hart played in only three games for the Iron Birds, but the speedster showed a lot of promise with some sensational catches and timely hits at GCL

I felt good about my experience at Aberdeen this season. The youngsters never played harder, and won more ball games with smarts and hustle than ever before. I left Aberdeen after each game believing the Baltimore Orioles had much promise at Aberdeen this season.

Season in Review, Tennessee Smokies, Part 8

Much of the Chicago Cubs future played for AA – Tennessee Smokies last season, Justin Bour at 1B, Arismendy Alcantara at 2B, Javier Baez at SS, Christian Villanueva at 3B, Matt Szczur in CF, Rudi Silva RF, and LHP Eric Jokisch, RHP Dallas Beeler, and RHP Tony Zynch on the mound (Alberto Cabrera and Kyle Hendricks had moved on by the time I got there).

During the August 14-16 Chatttanooga Lookouts series I was at, they smoked the ball. When Baez was not hitting the ball out of the park, Villanueva, Bour, Silva or Alcantara were, usually with speedy Szczur on base.

The nice thing is they can also play their positions defensively. I saw Villanueva make Brooksie Robinson type plays at 3B, Alcantara play the ball behind second base, Baez goes in the hole at short and Szczur turn his back to home plate and high tail it to the fence to catch a fly ball.

Seeing them all on the field was a highlight for me in 2013, and they will also light up Wrigley Field starting the 2014 season. Cubs fans will have some exciting moments in store for them with these youngsters.

2013 Season in Review, The Two Michaels, Part 7

I saw the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals Fast A Frederick Keys and Potomac Nationals play a total 13 games against Carolina League opponents, including four games against each other, during the 2013 season.

The highlight of all those games was seeing Potomac CF, Michael Taylor, and Frederick catcher, Michael Ohlman play better and better each game and develop into bonifide major league prospects.

Leading the Carolina League with a 313 BA, 13 HR, 113 hits, and 53 RBI in 100 GP and 361 AB, Michael Ohlman looked an awful lot like Orioles catcher, Matt Wieters both at and behind the plate when he also played at Frederick. It must be nice to have an All Star catcher on the major league club and one rising in their minor league system.

With 10 HR, 87 RBI’s and 51 SB in 133 GP, the five tool Michael Taylor led his teammates to a first and second half first place finish and Carolina League championship runners up during the season.

I got to know both these fine young athletes during the course of the season, in fact well enough, to tease Michael Taylor one day at Frederick that he needed to smooth his swing out, as it was too jerky for me to get a good shot of him swinging at the plate.

In his first at bat, he took me to heart, swinging fluidly at the third pitch, knocking the ball high over the right center field fence.

When he ran back past me to the dugout after rounding the bases, he yelled over to me, “Was that swing smooth enough for you?”

It’s good to see these decent young men rise to the top of their game in Fast A, and hopefully, they’ll keep suceeding in AA, AAA, and major league baseball as we need these two first class Michaels to serve as role models for our youth.down the road.


Click above to see the slideshow.

2013 Season in Review: Part 6 The Big Swing

I don’t think many folks would think getting hit in the head, breaking a expensive 500 mm lens, and stopping a game a season highlight, but the way the Frederick Keys medics, fans, and team officials responded to aid me that day stands out in my mind as very special.

At Camp Day at Frederick MD on July 18th, I was sitting behind the Salem Red Sox dugout on the 3B side, focusing on Keys RHB, Allan De San Miquel, when he swung ferociously, the bat slipped out of his hands, and unbeknowst to me, headed in my direction.

I found out where the bat went, when it hit the end of my lens, richocheted down my chin, neck, onto my chest, buckling me over in distress.

The game was stopped, the medics came to my aid immediately, They stuck to my side until I was able to tell them what day it was, who I was, talk intelligently and convince them I was all right.

When the relief left my side, Salem players and coaches outside the dugout looking up at me, the Frederick players looking over from the other side of the field, and the fans in the stands gave a roar of applause happy that me, the Old Photographer, was all right.

Several nice ladies, probably the mothers or camp leaders of the large number of children in attendance, came over to me during the game offered their good feelings, aspirin, and water, all of which made me feel very good about the Frederick folks.

Later in the press box, Keys media relations manager, Adam Pohl, counted all of my teeth and made sure I was all right.

And to prove that out of everything that is bad, comes some good, I had to buy a new, faster 500 mm lens, and 60D camera body, which improved my photography, increased the interest editors had in my baseball photos, and the number they published.

2013 Minor League Season in Review: Part Five

Steve Luebber, Wilmington Blue Rocks

I always get a kick out of seeing Steve Luebber, who has been the pitching coach for Wilmington Blue Rocks the past two seasons.

This season I got to see him three times when Fast A Carolina League Wilmington played at Frederick and Potomac.

The former Twins RHP was the first to teach me how to squat right behind a catcher in the bullpen and have a pitcher of my choice throw the ball at me and the catcher to capture the great shot of the ball floating right in front of my eyes and camera lens..

At first, I wasn’t too keen on the approach, but after I stepped behind catcher Doug Robbins at Hagertown that hot July day in 1991 to face the pitches of the fire baller, Arthur Rhodes, and later saw the shots, I thought it was a great technique and tried it many more times afterward through the years.

Now every time I see Steve, he is still laughing about that day back in Hagerstown when he showed me how to get the “great shot.”

2013 Minor League Season in Review: Part Four

Mike Wright, Bowie Bay Sox

I drove around the beltway and up Route 50 to Bowie, MD five times this season to see the Baltimore Orioles AA Eastern League affiliate, Bowie Bay Sox.

Having 23-year old 6’6” RHP Mike Wright help me out by posing for shots for the Orioles Kid Magazine before a Richmond game and seeing him shut down a good New Hampshire Fisher Cats team later in August were a couple more 2013 highlights.

The pose shots were unique in as much as I got Mike to simulate pitching from the mound rather than the bullpen which justly earned me a lecture from the team media relations for not coordinating the photo shoot in advance.

Mike was 11-3 W-L, 3.26 ERA, 136 K and 39 BB in 143.2 IP last season, and the 2013 Eastern League All Star Game MV.
He may just take his pitching wares to Baltimore next season, replacing Dylvan Bundy as the Birds next #1 prospect pitcher.

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