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Thanks for the West End Memories

Congratulations to Jim and Bonnie Winder, and to all that have made West End Babe Ruth baseball a fixture in our community for 75 seasons! I can’t even imagine the hours the husband and wife duo have put into the league for teenage ballplayers over the decades.

West End Baseball has been very instrumental in developing area players when they leave the Little League diamond, and move on up to the Big Field, which is used the rest of their baseball career. The only difference being the distance of the outfield fence, depending on the level they are competing at. There’s a great deal of instructional baseball to be taught, especially at the 13- year-old level. West End always seems to find great managers and coaches; many have been involved in the league for years. Three that come to my mind are George Lepley, Tom Marnon and Dave Cipriani. The long time baseball guys have about a century of coaching between them. That’s a lot of long innings, rain delays, and practices. Not to mention making sure the field is in good shape.

One thing that has always made West End Baseball unique is the bringing together of young talent from around the area. Young ballplayers get a chance to step out from their local school boundaries, and play with those who they are usually competing against. More important than baseball, they make new friendships that will last a lifetime. They also learn for the first time there’s much more talent out there than just their own local league. It has been a great recipe for success when all-star time rolls around.

I know Jimmy and Hunter loved their days of playing West End Baseball, and I miss watching it from the bleachers. Although those who know me will tell you, I never really spent much time sitting, just too many good things going on around the ballpark and people to talk to.

A special tip of the cap to George Lepley who managed both my boys to World Series. Jimmy has Webb household bragging rights reaching three World Series, to Hunter’s one trip. Hunt’s teams were always knocking at the door, which made that one World Series visit very special. I must also give Levon Whitmyer a special tip of the West End cap for managing Jimmy’s team to his last World Series. I believe five local school districts were represented on that team. The boys being 16 to 18 had played their entire high school careers against each other, most had graduated and had one last West End hurrah reaching the World Series in Klamath Falls, Oregon.

That’s another thing about West End Babe Ruth baseball, the Webb family got to see a lot of places in our great Country we would have probably never visited. The year Jimmy was playing in Klamath Falls Oregon, Hunter was playing in the 15-year-old World Series in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee near Nashville. Luckily for me, there were only a few days they overlapped and I was able to catch a flight and catch the action in the Volunteer State.

Our first World Series experience was in Salt Lake City, Utah. The whole family was able to make it including my Dad. It has provided special memories for Jimmy and all of us. I only wish Pop Pop Webb could have been there for all the World Series. It was also the motivation for a young Hunter-man, he told me at the time, “I’m going to play in the World Series”.

The other World Series we attended was in Loudoun County Virginia, which is not too far from Washington, D.C. There was plenty to do, and plenty to see, but this one was a little bittersweet. See, Jimmy broke his wrist on an inside the park homerun at the Mid-Atlantic Regional. He learned a valuable lesson of why you don’t go Pete Rose headfirst slide into home plate as he broke his wrist against the catcher’s shin guard. The good news was we were heading to the World Series; the bad news was he was watching from the dugout.

West End baseball sort of became the vacation guide for my family. Although the boys are now grown and I wish we would have gone to Ocean City more often, I wouldn’t trade those baseball days for anything. Beginning with our West End family, we met so many great people in our travels, wherever the destination was, the people across our great Nation could not have been any nicer. It really gave me a bird’s eye view to how special our Country, and the people who make it up are.

Babe Ruth baseball would use host families at the World Series sites. An approved family within the local community would basically adopt your son for the week of the World Series. Two or three players would stay with their host family. At first I was a little uneasy with this, but as time passed I realized it was one of those growing up things in a young person’s life that helped make the event so extra special. My Sons, to this day, keep in contact with their host families. They adopted them for much longer than one week; this seems to be the norm for many West End players.

I have so many great stories and memories of our days spent traveling for West End Baseball, I don’t have enough pages to share them all. My favorite may be the “You, You, You, the Woman and You” story and all that surrounded that game that took place in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. I promise to someday tell that story in the entirety. Those that know the story are laughing right now. Just let me say a Homer umpire got called out by the West End faithful and he didn’t like it, so he showed them where the gate was. However, to this day I think their energy and support of the players changed the game. Thank you to all of them, and no I wasn’t one of them.

Tip of my New York Yankee cap to all the great folks that have volunteered and made West End Babe Ruth baseball possible for 75 years!

God Bless America.

Jim Webb

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