The Berks-Mont News (http://www.berksmontnews.com)

A season to remember for the Boyertown American Legion Bears


By Rob Zambanini, For 21st Century Media

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

By the evening of Friday, August 2, it became apparent that the theme of this season summary article would be a positive one. Earlier that morning, the Boyertown Legion Bears had won the all-important (and rain-delayed) winner’s bracket finale of the PA State Tournament, it’s second consecutive thrilling victory, to automatically qualify for the Mid-Atlantics. By the end of the following day, the Bears extended their record number of state championships to 23 by defeating league rival Twin Valley.
The journey from 2012, when the Bears finished the season with an overall record only one game over .500, to the triumphs of early August of 2013 truly was an enjoyable and rewarding one. The Bears, with essentially the same personnel as the year before, somehow managed to improve their winning percentage by 201 points, win the Berks County regular season championship, and in essence restore summer fun for the Boyertown baseball community.
The memorable experiences and neat events of the 2013 legion baseball season were many and frequent, numerous enough that I in fact prepared an entire article of “leftovers” from the season and still didn’t cover them all.
For example, I was privileged to watch two no-hitters during the season, the combined no-no by Boyertown’s Mitch Renninger and Chase Endy in the County playoffs as well as the gem turned in by Downingtown’s Dalton Reed in the state tournament. There were also several outstanding renditions of our National Anthem during the season, including an heroic performance by Gabby Snyder, a young parishioner in my parish (MBS) who has also sung the National Anthem at the Reading Phillies.
But the most beautiful part of the season was watching the nucleus of the Bears team improve with age. For example, the Bears pitching, already their strong point, cut a full point off of their ERA from 3.15 to 2.15. The Bears total runs allowed, a stat measuring both the pitching and the team defense, declined by the same amount from 3.9 runs per game to 2.8.
Ah, yes, of course the pitching improved, some may say. Wooden bats returned to the legion scene for the first time in several decades. How else would one explain a decline of a full run per game in runs allowed?
But that’s where the team improvement is even more dramatic and beautiful: the Bears’ offense also improved by over a full run per game. In 2012, the Bears averaged 4.26 runs per game; in 2013, they averaged 5.35 runs per game. Despite not having the advantage of aluminum bats, the Bears still managed to increase their runs per game by 1.09; they also improved their batting average (from .239 to .266), their slugging average (from .285 to .306), and their on-base average (from .345 to .360).
They increased their extra-base hits from 43 to 56, although, perhaps as a result of the wooden bats, the Bears failed to hit a home run on the season. The Bears even improved in a key base running statistic: in 2012, the Bears stole only 64 bases while being caught 20 times, but in 2013 they stole 104 bases while being caught 23 times.
One could argue that the Bears improved due to luck and/or the law of averages, but in fact they had to overcome that factor: using a relatively routine calculation, the Bears in 2012 underperformed their statistics by a game, but in 2013 they underperformed by five games.
That leaves one other factor, and it is the most beautiful factor of all. It is a factor that has been mentioned to me on many occasions this past season: team chemistry. The Bears simply displayed a team unity and comradeship that was much greater than it was in 2012.
“There’s a better team chemistry, overall, than what last year was,” commented catcher Cory Fox earlier in the season.“We’re just together and everyone’s friends and that’s a big factor in winning games.”
The team chemistry was further evidenced by the observation that the Bears actually played better as the season went on. “I think throughout the season we became a better team and actually played the best in the last two weeks that we played in the tournaments,” commented head coach Rick Moatz. Indeed, the Bears actually improved their overall team batting average AND slugging percentage by seven points from the start of the Region 2 tournament until the end of the season.
From a larger point of view, one could make the observation that the overall improvements of the team on the field – i.e., the team chemistry, the improved averages, the better record – are a microcosm of the improvement of the team off the field. The Bears organization continues to grow in dedicated volunteers and efficiency. No better example of the organization’s prowess can be provided than the historical occasion of Boyertown’s hosting back-to-back tournaments beyond the County playoffs for the first time. In both cases, factors completely out of the control of the Bears organization arose, both before (Region 2) and during (States) the tournaments. Yet in both cases, the tournaments were run so efficiently and in such a quality manner that kudos were readily forthcoming in all aspects of the tournaments.
It all adds up to a very successful and memorable season. It also suggests another successful season in 2014. As this article goes to press, the status of returnees among the players is not known. However, two positive signs are that (a) the majority of the team appears to be returning, and (b) the Junior Legion teams had strong, successful seasons, in particular, the Bear-Cubs. Given that the cast of volunteers off the field will be back, the future of Boyertown baseball is indeed again very bright.
CHALK DUST: Brooklawn emerged as the 2013 Legion World Series champions. They defeated Petaluma (CA), 10-0, in the fifteenth and final game of the Series . . . The Bears host the State Tournament in 2014 . . . As always, the author thanks all those persons who helped to make the season memorable.