By Keith Mills
The 2009 Oriolelanders high school baseball team, a showcase squad sponsored by the Orioles, worked out for the first time recently at Calvert Hall under the direction of new manager Tim Norris. The team will play in six events throughout the summer and fall: George Mason University (Fairfax, Va., Aug. 21-22), Johnstown, Pa. (Sept. 4-5), Fredericksburg, Pa. (Sept. 11-12), East Carolina University (Greenville, N.C., Sept. 19-20), Virginia Beach, Va. (Sept. 26-27) and Raleigh, N.C. (Oct. 17-18).
Norris, the area's former All-Metro Player of the Year in 1977 at Archbishop Curley and fourth-round draft pick for the Orioles in 1978, inherited the team from Dean Albany after Albany, a 1981 graduate of Brooklyn Park High School, was promoted from Mid-Atlantic area scouts to be one of the Orioles’ three regional scouting cross checkers last spring.
Albany and Norris, now an Orioles associate scout, picked the '09 Oriolelanders squad after a July tryout of more than 50 players at Camden Yards. Norris also took over Walter Youse's Maryland Orioles college division summer team after assisting Albany the last several years as pitching coach.
The original Oriolelanders team was first formed in the late 1960s as an opponent for the Hearst All-Stars, a team of local high school area players sponsored by the Baltimore News-American, in a game played at Memorial Stadium. Orioles scout Dick Bowie coached the first team. Jim Gilbert later ran the team along with Sparrows Point High second baseman Gary Kendall, now the manager of the Aberdeen Ironbirds, and then Albany took over for Gilbert in 2000.
Among the Oriolelander alumni are: Mark Teixeira; Gavin Floyd; Severna Park's Josh Banks; the late Nick Adenhart; Steve Johnson of St. Paul's, now pitching for the Bowie Baysox after being traded from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Orioles along with third baseman Jason Bell for pitcher George Sherrill, and McDonogh's Brandon Erbe.
This year's team features some of the area's premier high school players, including Dominic Fratantuono (Cardinal Gibbons) and Kyle Convissar (Severna Park), who played this summer for Futures Team Maryland alongside Zach Fitzpatrick (McDonogh) and Zach Nadolny (Bel Air), also on the Oriolelanders team.
The remaining '09 Oriolelanders roster includes Brad Markey and Bobby Ruse (C. Milton Wright), Kevin Hockaday (John Carroll), Tim Bancells (Hereford), Dennis Mitchell (Malvern Prep in Philadelphia, Pa.), Sean Miller and Austin Neary (Archbishop Spalding), Kory Britton (Atholton), Sean Doyle (Archbishop Curley), Alex Lenovitz and Greg Bryant (Calvert Hall), Mike Draper (Mount St. Joseph), Phil Paciocco (Perryville), Chris Peltz (Cardinal Gibbons), Sean Willey (Severna Park), A.J. Lardo (Loyola), Russ Patti (Centennial), Will Bouey (Sherwood), Quinn Griffith (North Carolina), Shane Hollman (Fallston), Colin Maye (Middletown), Taylor Peed (Calvert), Bryan Willis (Gilman) and Spencer Wolfe (Huntingtown).
Albany, meanwhile, spent a recent Saturday night in Johnstown, Pa., being inducted into the All-American Amateur Baseball Association Hall of Fame. Now the general manager of Youse's Maryland Orioles, he was inducted into the Hall prior to the start of the 64th AAABA tournament, one of the nation's premier amateur baseball events.
Albany was inducted as a player and manager after helping Youse's Johnny's New and Used Cars team win two championships as a player in the 1980s. When Youse passed away in 2002, Albany took over the amateur powerhouse as manager, leading Youse's to six straight AAABA titles. This year's Youse's team lost in a AAABA regional last weekend in Altoona, Pa., only the second time in the history of the tournament the Baltimore squad has not played in the prestigious Johnstown event.
Youse, the legendary amateur baseball guru, led Calvert Hall to three MSA championships in the 1950s before taking a job as a scout for the Orioles in 1959. He then followed former Orioles general manager Harry Dalton to California and Milwaukee in the 1970s and '80s, although he always coached the summer team back in Baltimore. In 1956, brothers Dominic, Vince and Tony Leone began a partnership with Youse that ended in one of the most successful amateur baseball programs ever.
Leone's, and later Johnny's, received national attention not just by winning numerous AAABA tournaments in Johnstown, but by the many major league players it would produce -- Phil Linz, Dave Boswell, Tom Phoebus, Johnny Miller, Reggie Jackson, Ron Swoboda, Willie Mays Aikens and Paul Hartzell.
Youse was inducted into the AAABA Hall of Fame in 1998 along with Swoboda, a graduate of Sparrows Point and one of the many reasons why the New York Mets upset the Orioles in the 1969 World Series. Dominic Leone, a former Baltimore City councilman, and brothers Vince and Tony were inducted three years ago while Tony's son Mike Leone, a 1975 graduate of Brooklyn Park and member of the Bees' Class B '75 regional championship team, now coaches first base for Youse's Orioles.
Other former major league players in the AAABA Hall are Chris Sabo, Jim Abbott, Mark Fidrych, Pete Vukovich, Ruben Amaro Jr. and Frank Torre.
Issue 140: August 2009