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PAL team hoping for better weather

By RODNEY PAGE, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 21, 2002

BASEBALL

Pinellas PAL will try again.

The Police Athletic League under-16 team traveled to West Palm Beach last weekend for the Sunshine State Games but rain washed out the tournament.

Hopefully, the weather will cooperate this week as Pinellas PAL takes another road trip, this time to Jupiter for the Junior Olympic tournament.

The weeklong tournament features 58 teams in the 16-and-under category. It is run in conjunction with the Junior Olympic tournament in Tucson, Ariz., which has 74 teams competing.

"It used to be just in Arizona but I suggested a few years ago that the tournament be split in two," said Police Athletic League executive director Jerry Babcock, who was on the Junior Olympic Board of Directors.

"It just got too big for one place, and we have more than enough teams in Florida that will play."

Not only will teams be playing for a championship, but there is also something at stake for individuals. As part of the Junior Olympic national baseball program, 20 players each from the Florida and Arizona tournaments will be selected to attend a camp in Houston in July.

Players selected for that camp will compete for 20 spots on the United States Junior Olympic team. Those 20 players will then reconvene for a week of practice before heading to Venezuela in August for an international tournament.

"It's a great opportunity for those players selected," Babcock said. "Three years ago, (St. Petersburg PAL) had five players selected for that team, the most of any team in the country. It allows those players selected a chance to compete at the highest level and to get recognized by the U.S. Olympic Committee."

POST 14 STARTS QUICKLY: St. Petersburg Post 14 is off to one of its best starts in recent memory.

Post 14 is 7-1 heading into this weekend's four games at the Naimoli Complex. It will play a doubleheader Saturday against Venice and a doubleheader Sunday against Sarasota Riverview.

Post 14 is being led offensively by Nolan Brannon (St. Petersburg High), Kip Perry (Pinellas Park) and Phillip Catalan (Northeast). Top pitchers are John Stang (St. Petersburg and Hillsborough CC), Damione Morley (home-schooled) and Marcus Liwag (Pinellas Park).

"It has really been a team effort," Post 14 coach Joe Martin said. "I haven't had that one guy carry the team. It's like every game is somebody else's turn to play well. That's the kind of team you want."

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