When a late cancellation by Cleveland left the All-American Amateur Baseball Association short one team for next week's national tournament in Johnstown, Pa., AAABA officials asked one of its strongest franchises, Buffalo, for help.
Buffalo came through, agreeing to send a third team assembled by long-time manager Ron Leib to join local playoff champion Royal Printing and runner-up Full Circuit in the tournament, which will begin next Monday with a 16-team field divided into four divisions for three days of pool play before elimination rounds.
It will be the fourth trip to the nationals in the last five seasons for Royal Printing, run by the venerable Tovey Asarese, who turned 90 this month. The Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Famer has been fielding teams of young men for 65 years.
"Tovey is a legend," Royals manager Bob Carnevale said. "He comes to all our games and still runs his business. He works five hours every day. He's never charged a kid even one penny to play ball in all the years he's been doing it."
Carnevale believes this edition of the team is stronger than the one which reached the quarterfinals a year ago.
"We've got a lot of very good players," said Carnevale, who has been involved in local amateur baseball for nearly 50 years, took over as manager for Asarese in 2010. "If we stay healthy, my pitching could by my best. We have a solid defensive team."
Carnevale is counting on Alex Licata, Jared Burmaster and Noah Thompson as his starters. Licata pitched at NCAA Division II Grand Valley State in Michigan last spring after playing at Lockport High and Niagara County CC. Burmaster, who is from Fredonia, also pitched at NCCC and is headed for Canisius College. Thompson of East Aurora is also going to Canisius via NCCC.
When Carnevale talks about his defense he especially means middle infielders Max Giordano, a 2018 All-Western New York first team pick from Lancaster, and second baseman Michael Gabriel, a Canisius High grad who plays at Niagara. Gabriel went 9 for 15 (.600) in four games at last year's nationals.
Vince Chiarenza, who led the Buffalo AAABA in batting and home runs, is another offensive threat.
Gordon Karstedt manages the Full Circuit team that that has standout pitching in Canisius High's Jack Collins and Tom Bednarski, who made All-WNY at Alden in 2017 and Lancaster in 2018. Chris Szablewski is a power hitter from St. Mary's of Lancaster who is headed for St. Bonaventure.
Leib's roster includes Mike Flemming, Anthony Hernandez and Kevin Walter from ECC and Ryan McCarrick from St. Bonaventure.
Royal Printing and Full Circuit are in opposite brackets so won't face each other until elimination play in Johnstown. Either could run into Leibs along the way, however.
The field also includes three teams from Brooklyn, teams from Maryland, Philadelphia, New Orleans, New Brunswick, N.J., two Johnstown teams as well as one from nearby Altoona, and Ohio teams from Zanesville, Columbus and Youngstown.