Month: August 2016

Constant Volunteer Field Maintenance Essential to RBI Success

ANNAPOLIS, Md.—In youth sports, there are countless people behind the scenes who lead by example and understand the importance of sacrifice and teamwork.

It’s the same with Ruth’s Baseball Ideals (RBI) Baseball Club…who’s example is John Pineau.

At RBI, it’s estimated that the teams Pineau has coached have won over 400 games while winning six league championships (2010-12) and two state championships (16U in 2013, 19U in 2015). He was named Maryland AAU Baseball Coach of the Year in 2014.

That’s the John Pineau who is a fixture in the Annapolis area as a youth baseball coach.

But his love of the sport goes beyond the excitement of the experience on the field. To say he’s devoted to baseball, and to AAU Baseball and RBI, is an understatement.

In addition to serving as the RBI club’s longtime president and coaching, Pineau is Director of AAU Baseball’s Maryland and Potomac Valley Districts spanning Northern Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland and Commissioner of the AAU Mid-Atlantic Wood Bat League.

He’s also Head Groundskeeper for Riva Area Park’s 90-foot field.

“Riva Park’s 90-foot field, and 18+, 19U, 16U, and 14U youth baseball, wouldn’t be anywhere close to what it is without him,” said Mike Graham, longtime manager/coach of the AAU advanced skills development team Maryland RBI.

What Pineau does to operate and maintain the Riva field for AAU youth baseball couldn’t be duplicated by many others, Graham said. He should know—Graham cast his coaching lot with RBI seven years ago and has since managed four teams that made an appearance in the AAU State Championship game, winning it all back in 2012-2014 during an unprecedented three-year run as the state champions and competed for the AAU National Championship at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla., in 2013.

“Hundreds of players are only able to play this sport in our area because of John’s incredible efforts not only to organize and manage leagues for teams to play in but also his labor to maintain Riva Park,” said Graham. “He’s changed a lot of lives of many of these players. For many it’s been their critical path to play college baseball and brought together a family club atmosphere.”

Graham, who’s been coaching for 20 years, says he’s impressed how “John is always working on and making improvements to the field. I’ve coached all over the country and overseas and Riva in many ways still is my favorite ballfield—it’s like coming home.”

And that’s much of the reason why the Riva facility is what it’s become today.

“I think the success of our program depends a lot on the facility that we have and the TLC—tender loving care—we give it,” said Pineau. “I know every blade of grass on that field and I think that goes hand-in-hand with success that the program is able to thrive.”

Throughout these years Pineau has been the key player in maintaining the Riva field. In addition to his real life full-time job as a businessman, the 62-year-old often puts over 20 hours of field maintenance per week into the field.

“I do as much of the work as I can myself only because I know the kids don’t sign up to be field maintenance workers. They come to play baseball,” said Pineau. “So I do the bulk of the work, but I need the help of the coaches and community.

“After practice, after games you’ll see them out there with brooms, rakes, and the tractor-drag helping every way that they can. If the community saw how hard we all work on this field just so kids can play baseball, they would cry.”

That builds club chemistry which is one of the reasons Pineau believes that the program he leads has been so strong throughout the years.

“I’ve dedicated my life to youth baseball,” said Pineau. “This is a way for me to spend time with young people, get to know them, and stay young myself and share a lifetime of baseball knowledge with them. And try to guide them as best as I can.”

But nothing that has been done to improve and maintain the field could have been possible without the support of the community, which helps the club to cover the costs of the field.

“Some of it is provided by player registrations and business sponsorships, some of it by Anne Arundel County Recreation and Parks,” said Pineau. “Sometimes it comes out of my pocket. Most of it is sweat equity.”

Recently on a hot August day with the temperature on the field a searing 101 degrees, Pineau was busy treating, repairing, weeding, and doing everything necessary to get the field into condition for the fall baseball season that starts after Labor Day.

“ACE Hardware Lawn & Garden expert consultant Andy Summers visited the field,” Pineau said, “and complimented us on how well the field has survived the severe weather conditions this year. He was shocked by how well the field has held up because of all the field maintenance we have performed.”

Just as much as Pineau gives back to the people of the community, the club and the field that it so proudly maintains gives back to him, which fuels his drive and determination to continue to grow one of AAU Baseball’s top district-level programs.

That’s why, on any given day, even though the season may be over, you can still find Pineau on the field—maintaining the playing surface and getting it ready for the next season.

South River wins Maryland AAU championship

ANNAPOLIS, Md.—Before the Maryland AAU championship game South River coach Bryan Shores said he wanted his team to approach it like just another game. They did much more.

The Seahawks staved off a furious comeback attempt from Maryland RBI to win the Maryland AAU Baseball tournament championship game July 2 at South River High School. The victory earns the Seahawks their first Maryland AAU title after an exciting marathon ride through the 2016 Maryland AAU Wood Bat Baseball League season and tournament.

South River capitalized on Maryland RBI errors on the same play exploding for 6 runs in the fifth inning, as the Seahawks defeated Maryland RBI 9-5 in the Maryland AAU finals on Saturday. The misplay, which scored three unearned runs, broke open what had been a nail biter with Maryland RBI relentlessly threatening but not scoring.

After a scoreless first and second by both teams, South River scored first in the third going up 3-0 when it scored three runs on two singles. The lead stayed with the Seahawks after the third.

Maryland RBI (9-6 AAU, 11-7 overall) was trying for its fourth Maryland AAU title since 2012.

“Bryan has been coaching forever and South River earned it,” Maryland RBI manager Mike Graham said of Shores. “He and his coaches did a great job getting to the championship by knocking off Southern Maryland Elite.

“South River and Maryland RBI split during the season and most assumed Southern Maryland Elite out of Leonardtown/St. Mary’s County, would be the team to beat, but South River took them out and caught fire and played very well—focused, steady and solid at all the right times.

“We anticipated our experience was an advantage,” Graham said of Maryland RBI vs South River, “so we wanted to pressure [South River] in all phases—defensively in the field, on the bases, show them different looks, take chances and try to make things happen.

“We did get them on their heels at various times and they bent, but we just couldn’t break them. After the third, we were chasing. They are a tough bunch of kids. It was an exciting game and our coaching staff was very pleased how our guys rallied and battled to the last out. It was exciting.”

Shores and Graham laughed at the size of the crowd that turned out for the game. Over a hundred filled the South River HS field’s bleachers and fence lines.

Brad Marceron got the win for South River. He struck out four, walked two and surrendered five hits, allowing five runs over 5 2/3 innings.

South River was sparked by Nick Moskios and Eric Sieber, who teamed up for five hits and five RBIs. Sieber was named the Most Outstanding Player for South River.

The Seahawks couldn’t get anything going while Blake Thrasher was on the bump in relief for Maryland RBI. Thrasher held South River hitless over one inning, allowed no earned runs, walked none and struck out two.

South River built upon its lead with six runs in the fifth. The inning got off to a hot start when Moskios singled, scoring Marceron. That was followed up by Bryce Lerner’s RBI single.

After pushing across five runs in the top of the sixth, Maryland RBI faced just a 9-5 deficit. A two-run double by Mac McGrath fueled Maryland RBI’s comeback. “Mac plays like lightning in a bottle,” Graham said. “It’s open that bottle and watch out.”

An RBI double by Billy Albaugh followed—“Huge, timely and desperately needed,” Graham said—then a bases loaded walk by Micheas Yimam and a walk by Jeff Johnson. Finally, Sieber in relief put out the fire for South River with an inning-ending strikeout.

Graham said, “Our large senior class, winter workout program, the guys playing college and high school ball in the spring, the contributions of guys who don’t show up much, it all factors. It was a full on team effort, and just getting to the championship at this level is an achievement. It really comes down to there’s no easy road to a ‘ship in ‘the U’—playing in the Amateur Athletic Union is an honor and privilege.”

The championship game was originally set to be played at Riva Area Park at noon on Saturday, but a bad thunderstorm the night before flooded that field. With the threat of more rain Sunday, and with an AAU 18+ summer collegiate/amateur tournament scheduled at Riva, the most important Maryland AAU Baseball game of the year went off at 6 p.m. at South River HS.

“Bryan and his coaching staff did an amazing job to get South River’s field ready,” Graham said. “They dug drainage pits and pumped a hundred gallons of water off the field and applied who knows how much Field Dry pellets to get it ready for play. The field was perfect, mowed and looked great. No other program could do that, and it’s a credit to the Seahawks organization. As far as I am concerned, that alone was an AAU Coaching Staff of the Year performance.”

Much of the game was a pitchers’ duel to see which team’s arms would fade first. Maryland RBI built up repeated threats throughout the game, but only the explosion in the fifth produced runs.

Yimam was named the Most Outstanding Player for Maryland RBI.

“Ask any pro and college coach or scout and they will tell you wood bat is where it’s at for player development,” Graham said, “and this league is a lot better than people give it credit for. All but one of the 10 teams playing 19U and 18+ could beat each other on any given day. That made the league this year a flat out grinder, which makes South River’s championship all the more impressive. We salute them.”