Legion baseball prologue: For love of the game

Bill Grubb is a self-proclaimed “baseball nut.”

The Brilliant resident is a fanatic of the national pastime and a supporter of Buckeye Local athletics.

That’s why he’s wants to see the Panthers improve on the diamond. Grubb has a vision that will aid the team in the near future and, hopefully, long beyond.

He wants to start a summer league team for the Buckeye Local school district.

“I’d like to see the boys improve,” Grubb said. “This will only help the athletes of Buckeye Local get better at baseball and allow them to play together for much of the year.

“We play teams whose kids play summer ball together. They get that advantage. I think we’d get an advantage, too, if all of our kids play together in the summer.”

He has the support.

He has the funding.

He has the excitement.

He just needs the approval.

Grubb plans to attend this Monday’s school board meeting and present a proposal to the board members. He’s asking for the permission to use the baseball park – Bill Mazeroski Field – which could potentially host this developing team.

“I’ve talked to the superintendent (Mark Miller), I’ve talked to the athletic director (Sam Jones) and I’ve talked to some other leaders and parents,” Grubb said. “Everybody is on board.”

Welden Trucking, located in Mingo Junction, is looking to be the title sponsor, while Steel Valley Tank and Trucking in Brilliant has already fronted some money. The Town House Bar & Grille is also on board.

Retired Navy SEAL Frank Hoagland has offered to support a raffle of a Glock pistol, which could raise as much as $2,000.

Grubb even has support from the Pittsburgh Pirates. The team’s charity organization has a “Fields for Kids” program, which provides financial support to improve youth baseball and softball facilities throughout Western Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio and North-Central West Virginia.

In 2010, the St. Clairsville Jr. Sports Complex recieved this aid from the Bucs.

Grubb said Pirates Charities will match grants for up to $5,000.

“The support is definitely there,” Grubb said.

A handful of current Buckeye Local players do play summer ball, albeit, in another town.

“None of them will have to travel too far if this works,” Grubb said. “I know the kids will jump on it, especially if we can get the field which is right in the middle of the school district.

“They wont have to go to (Steubenville) Post 33, St. Clairsville or Cadiz. Playing together is the best way for them to get better.”

Grubb, himself, only played Little League ball. His stepson, though, was a standout Big Red pitcher.

Ralph Burke played for Steubenville in the early 2000s and still ranks No. 8 in career strikeouts with 99. He earned a partial scholarship to play for Allegany College in Maryland before attempting to walk-on at Ohio University.

An ankle injury forced him to call it quits.

Burke, though, did play summer ball.

And some Buckeye Local kids did when the area last had a summer team – 16 years ago.

“It would just be a way for the kids to get more consistent and be even more prepared for the high school season,” Grubb said. “The earliest it can be established is next summer. Once it gets in place, the current underclassmen can be leaders to the younger kids coming up all year.”

Building this team is currently a dream, maybe after Monday it can be a goal.

Years down the road, there just may be a few more baseball nuts – like Grubb – wandering through the sandlots of southern Jefferson County.

(Peaslee, a Youngstown native, is a sports writer for the Herald-Star and Weirton Daily Times. He can be contacted at mpeaslee@heraldstaronline.com or followed on Twitter at @thempeas)