A Beautiful Ride Indeed

A Beautiful Ride Indeed
by Matthew Courtney

A beautiful ride definitely describes the saga of the last two years for the coaching staff at Federal Little League. In two years they have only lost three games - one at the World Series and two to last year's World Series participant from Maryland. Although Bill Abeles and Doug Hornbecker flip-flopped as manager and coach they still had the same approach to preparing these boys for a run at history.
Recently I had the chance to sit with Harold Ridenour, the first coach to ever visit the World Series from Hagerstown, and discuss the 1950 team he took to the Series; he described his relationship with the boys and his approach to the whole task. I can tell you as he unfolded his strategy to managing the team that would become Hagerstown's first entry, it sounded remarkably similar to what Hornbecker and Abeles demonstrated - hard work, daily team building practice, small goals approached step by step to reach larger ones, selfless dedication to team (not individuals) and a genuine love for the game by all.
Mr. Ridenour, now 90 and a long time resident of Florida, recalled the team with amazing clarity. Jimmy Jennings, one of his favorite players who still lives in Washington County, was also present at the interview. He expressed a deep admiration and respect for his former coach from close to 60 years ago. He even brought memorabilia and pictures from the experience to share with the coach. Watching the two interact was like sitting in on a strategy session between a coach and a boy who had a bond stronger than the 60 years that had separated them. They were talking about the successes and the play that lost them the game as if it had just happened last week at Williamsport. I could have closed my eyes and imagined it was Coach Abeles talking with Andrew Yacyk. A conversation I could picture going on 60 years from now.
For Mr. Ridenour's 90th birthday his sister Carolyn treated him to a special event - throwing out the first pitch during the August 19th's game. She'd spent months trying to convince Williamsport to include him. She succeeded. It definitely helped that Hagerstown had a team scheduled to play. I'm sure that the wonderful birthday event was monumental for the whole Ridenour family, but I know for certain that it had sent chills down the spine of the players, the coaches, and baseball fans like me to have this piece of history come full circle and connect with Federal on their final night.
These three coaches demonstrate the essence of what baseball is about. They have established a reachable goal for future teams from Hagerstown. The energy generated by a team with the coaches who are in sync with what is important is contagious. Look around this town at the overwhelming support they have. Look at the fan base that traveled every step of the way with them. Look at the humility the coaches and players have demonstrated. I believe they have given us all something special to take from the 2008 Federal Beautiful Ride. Go Mid-Atlantic Champs! Go Maryland State Winners! GO FEDERAL!