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    ON SPORTS: Babe Ruth World Series returning to Weimar



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    The entry way to Veterans Memorial Park in Weimar is decorated with baseball sculptures.

    VOLUNTEERS NEEDED

    Host families are needed for the Babe Ruth Baseball 16-18 year old World Series at Veterans Memorial Park Strickland Field in Weimar. For information, call Tom Strickland at 979-733-3808.

    WEIMAR

    Even Mother Nature knows better.

    When a tornado ripped through town in May, Veterans Memorial Park Strickland Field escaped with only minimal damage.

    Tom Strickland had the old park quickly back in business, hosting high school playoff games and select tournaments.

    Nothing new for Strickland, who has taken care of the park for over three decades.

    The first lighted field between San Antonio and Houston has provided more than its share of memorable moments since being built in 1948.

    I met the late Al Kasparek, Weimar's Mr. Baseball, at the park and he never failed to introduce to me his friends, many of whom would sit in lawn chairs lined up against the fence behind home plate.

    I watched Al's grandson, Kenn, pitch at the stadium before going on to be part of a national championship team at the University of Texas.

    I remember cramming into the stands behind home plate before the press box was expanded to watch Yoakum's Randy Boone and La Grange's Homer Bailey pitch in a playoff game.

    Bailey's stuff looked unhittable, but somehow B.J. Boening drove two balls over the fence to lead Yoakum to a win.

    I can't count the times I watched coach Jon Wunderlich's Weimar teams play at the park before making six state tournament appearances and winning Class 2A state championships in 1996, 1997, 2000, 2001 and 2003.

    I even took my son to Wunderlich's baseball camp at the park and saw up close why his teams were so successful.

    The park oozes baseball from the advertising signs on the wooden outfield stands to the smell of hamburgers cooking in the concession stand wafting through the stands.

    Nancy Strickland will make sure your burger is fixed just the way you like it, and I can vouch for that.

    You may have seen the lights from Interstate 10 or U.S. Highway 77 on a summer night and the glow has drawn people from miles away to witness a slice of Americana.

    The Babe Ruth Baseball World Series for 16-18 year olds came to the park in 2003, and the World Series for 13-15 year olds followed in 2005.

    The 16-18 year olds are coming back this summer, bringing back memories of the last World Series.

    Thousands attended the games and scores of friendships were created, one of which led to a marriage between Schulenburg coach Josh Morgan, who played on the championship team from Mobile, Ala., and the former Sarah Divin.

    This year's host Tri-County team will be coached by Tony Neuendorff and made up of players from Colorado, Fayette, Lavaca, DeWitt and Austin counties.

    The team will be selected at a July 10 tryout.

    The 10-team field will include two other teams from Texas and teams representing the Middle Atlantic, Ohio Valley, Pacific Northwest, Pacific Southwest, New England, Southeast and Midwest Plains regions.

    The last World Series included a team from Canada, which obviously had to adjust to the Texas heat.

    The World Series will begin with pool play on July 27 and the championship game will be played on Aug. 4.

    The World Series will open with a Breakfast of Champions on July 27 that will feature former Texas A&M and Sam Houston State baseball coach Mark Johnson as the guest speaker.

    Tom Strickland knows from experience that hosting a World Series isn't possible without the assistance of a number of people from around the area.

    He is still searching for families to house the players, volunteers to help prepare for the game, and financial assistance is welcome.

    Strickland is looking forward to hanging another banner at the old park and he would like as many people as possible to share in the experience.

    Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6588 or mforman@vicad.com, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.



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