PDT Sports Editor
With the 2012 Division III State Baseball Championship trophy settling into its new home in Scioto County, local players will now move on to the summertime tradition of the Gene Bennett Classic.
The Classic opens Thursday when Springfield Armaloy and the T3 Pelicans play 11 a.m. at Valley High School. Aramaloy and the Pelicans are two of the seven teams competing in the 2012 edition that features squads from three states.
In its third year, the tournament is now being hosted and organized by Shawnee State University. Gene Bennett, a former player in the Reds minor league system and scout for the club for 58 years, said the tournament is an effort to showcase competitive baseball and revitalize its local popularity.
“This gives exposure to some of our local players to players from other areas that have very competitive teams,” Bennett said. “We have had some good players in this area and will have more, but this gives them a chance to see what it takes to be a great player.”
Portsmouth Post 23 — including Brett Hood, Wade Martin, Austin Boyer, Derek Moore and Zach Brown from the 2012 State Champion Wheelersburg Pirates team — will be facing off against four teams from Ohio, one from Texas and one from West Virginia.
“We are trying to expand the teams competing little by little,” Bennett said. “We will hopefully get to 12 teams and eventually to 20.”
The T3 Pelicans hail from Cleveland and are coached by former professional player Neall French while Armaloy travels east from Springfield and is coached by former Urbana coach Al Fulk.
Traveling all the way from Dallas, Texas is Team Citius USA Red coached by Omar Washington. Citius will take on the Midland Redskins Thursday. Midland has produced former big leaguers Ken Griffey, Jr., Mike Matheny and Barry Larkin.
Also from Springfield, the Ohio Warhawks — whose former players include Patt Burrell, Brians Roberts and Brandon Phillips — will be taking on the Hounds out of Huntington, W.Va.
Bennett said it is a great opportunity for fans to experience high-level play locally.
“These are teams that have had a lot players go on to professional careers,” Bennett said. “Plus every game is free and you can’t beat that.”
On top of free admission, the Little League organization with the most players wearing their uniforms at Thursday night’s opening ceremonies will receive $500 to support their league.
Play begins Thursday at 11 a.m. and will wrap up with a championship game 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
Bob Strickley may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 203, or email@example.com.