Freeport International Baseball Invitational may showchase Russian, German, French teams
By Paul Kogut
Published: Monday, Nov. 12, 2012, 9:16 p.m.
Because of his passion for baseball, Freeport's Chuck Sarver has been contacting Russian Orthodox Churches in the Greater Pittsburgh area in an attempt to locate translators.
It makes sense in the world of Chuck Sarver, president of the Freeport International Baseball Invitational. The 19th annual FIBI is scheduled for July 22-27 at fields in the Alle-Kiski Valley, and Russia could be represented for the first time.
“We've talked to Russia before, but it's never been this heated this early on,” Sarver said. “If we get interest in the spring, it's usually too late. To have this much interest now is a really positive sign.”
FIBI organizers also have received commitments from teams in France and Germany, which would be first-timers at the event, too.
However, FIBI vice president Dave Brestensky, who's in charge of recruiting foreign teams, cautioned against calling the participation of any squad from overseas a sure thing at this point.
Brestensky corresponds with contacts by e-mail and often uses Google Translate.
“Every country has given me a yes, but as I've found out in the past, we'll find out more in January and February when we see how the fund-raising is going,” Brestensky said. “Russia is more than ahead of the game for fund-raising.”
The FIBI, which has a preset schedule and doesn't end with a winner, offers a more laid-back atmosphere than most baseball invites. Teams don't need to worry about being eliminated after playing only a few games.
This year, the international flavor was provided by teams from Canada, Israel and Italy and a few players from Japan and Australia.
With the possible addition of at least three countries as well as the probable return of teams from Australia, Canada, Italy and Japan, 2013 could turn out to be a memorable and challenging year for the FIBI.
In the past, most foreign players stayed with host families. Teams covered their travel expenses but didn't have to pay for a hotel and meals. Finding enough host families could be difficult. FIBI organizers recently held a special meeting to discuss options to accommodate a large foreign contingent.
One Russian baseball team and two softball squads plan to visit the Freeport area next year, Brestensky said. The baseball team would compete in the FIBI. The softball teams (one of ages 15-18, and one of ages 12-13) probably would play in the area for a week or two in early July before the FIBI.
Event organizers would create a schedule to match the Russian girls against mainly Alle-Kiski Valley softball teams. This would mark the first time FIBI organizers have branched out into softball.
“It would be very good for the Freeport Invitational,” Sarver said. “They are very welcome if they want to come.”
The German U-16 national team, possibly mixed with some younger players, is expected to play in the FIBI. The group will be led by Georg Bull, who served as manager of the Mannheim Tornados from 2007-11. The Tornados are members of the top league in Germany – the first division of the Baseball-Bundesliga.
By e-mail, Bull, who now runs the Duetsche Baseball Akademie, said the only reason his team couldn't play in Freeport is if another major European tournament is scheduled for that same time period.
As many as three baseball teams from France could be coming to Freeport.
“One said for sure they would be coming,” Brestensky said. “One said they would know by the end of November. And one said they would know by early next year.”
FIBI organizers also hope to organize a baseball team to send to Italy. The trip probably would take place in late June or early July. Paolo Castagnini brought an Italian team to Freeport the past two summers, and Sarver and his fellow organizers would like to reverse the exchange.
Brestensky said any player ages 15-18 interested in making the trip should contact the FIBI organization (www.fortheloveofthegame.org). The cost per player hasn't been set yet, but each American most likely would stay with a host family to lighten the expense, Brestensky said.
Sarver is excited about the possibilities for 2013 and the unusually high amount of progress that's already been made.
“It's been a good fall,” Sarver said.
Paul Kogut is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 724-224-2696.
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