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Daily News League adds teams, ready for new season

Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For the Daily News
Bowser's Brian Grise (sliding) returns to the Daily News League this season.

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Thursday, May 9, 2013, 1:31 a.m.

Nick Donato admitted that when he took over the Daily News League nearly a decade ago after the failed former commissionership whittled the participation to five teams that the longest tenured semi-professional league in Pennsylvania was close to folding.

Nearly a decade later, the DNL is as strong as ever.

Donato added four teams in the offseason — Carriage Inn, Cinello Insurance Agency, Hot Shots Saloon, Steele Town Inn — to bring the league to its highest number of participants in more than a decade.

With the retirement of long-time DNL manager Terry Thompson and his Liberty Boro franchise coupled with the exit of Day Toyota and the merger of Century 3 Chevrolet with Klingensmith Insurance along with the additions, the DNL will have a nine-team, 24-game schedule that will kick off its 85th season Monday.

“It's fantastic,” said Donato, who is in his ninth year running the league and 31st associated with the DNL. “We were in a very perilous situation in 2005 when we had a problem with the Jefferson team that caused a mass exodus. The goal back then was to someday get back to double figures, and we almost got there. I am so happy to get to nine after the problems we had last year with the Jefferson team and going back to 2004.”

Three of the four new teams will be made up of almost 100 percent new players.

• Steele Town Inn is based out of Forest Hills and will play its home games at Wylie Field.

• Cinello Insurance Agency and Hot Shots Saloon is a pair of former Palomino teams that are too old to play in that league now. Cinello Insurance will play at Millennium Field in Bethel Park. Hot Shots will play at South Park's Evans Field.

• Carriage Inn will play at South Allegheny and will be managed by Zac Grayson and be made up of some former Liberty Boro players.

Holdovers will be defending champion Bowser, Klingensmith Insurance, Clancy's Pub, Harvey Wilner's Tavern and regular-season champs Quinn Construction.

“It's nice to have some new blood in the league,” Donato said.

The league underwent other changes like adding a sixth playoff team and seeing polarizing Clancy's Pub player/manager Lou Kammermeier quit and become part of the DNL umpiring crew, but no change this season will mimic the sweeping change made last year.

For the first time since the early 1970s, the DNL went to wooden bats, and it was monumental game-changer.

Home runs went down from 69 to 18; the league batting average dipped from .351 to .238; and runs went from 13.1 per game to 7.3.

“I loved it as a coach,” veteran Quinn player/coach Jeff Rubinsak said. “I probably wouldn't have loved it back in my prime as a player because I wouldn't have been as good as a player. In my opinion, it's good for the league.”

The league voted to unanimously to use wooden bats this season.

“The games were lower scoring, and there was more strategy,” Donato said. “It brought defense into the game, and it was all around good for the league.”

Ironically, the team that didn't hit a home run last year was the team that won it all. Bowser, who won six consecutive titles from 2005-10 before losing in 2011, beat Quinn in four games last year to claim its seventh title in eight years.

The Twins return virtually its entire roster from a 20-10 team of a year ago, including veterans Dalaine Ofchinick, Jim Onder, Mike Finocchi and Brian Grise.

“The trophy is back where it belongs, and it's not going anywhere this year,” Bowser manager Andy Brettschneider said.

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