Antonio Casaus, 7, decided to get involved with baseball after he watched the Galion Graders in action during their inaugural season last year.
“I really like [to play] short stop,” he said.
Of course, any position would do, he added. Casaus got to meet most of the team players during a meet and greet at Heise Park Wednesday evening.
“I love it,” Casaus said.
His mother, Jackie Hocker, said his cousin sponsored some of the players last year.
“He loves it,” she said. “He wanted to play ball this year.”
During the meet and greet, several little leaguers and youth interacted with players to get autographs on baseballs or a schedule of Graders games for the season. They then went out to the field with the players to catch some flyballs.
“I think it’s good that they brought [the Graders] to Galion,” she said.
Hocker is among some in the community that are looking forward to the Graders kicking off their second season.
“That’s the highest level of baseball you’re going to see around here,” said Joe Kleinknecht, president of Galion-Crestline Area Chamber of Commerce, during the monthly Chamber Chat at The Candi Bar, 129 Harding Way E, Wednesday morning.
“I think the Galion Graders is a real asset to this community,” Galion Mayor Tom O’Leary said.
The team has four players returning from last season including Kevin Schrock of Millersburg from the University of Findlay; AJ Cecil of Oak Harbor from Kent State University; and Trent Downs of Kingston from the University of Rio Grande.
Some players had to remove themselves the roster due to injury or other reasons, Graders associate coach Taylor Baker said. That includes Austin Adams of Crestline who plays for the University of Findlay.
This year’s team will feature several other players from the area: Xavier Harris of Mount Gilead, Evan Lee of Lexington, Justin Lewis of Shelby, and Dalton Stambaugh of Fredericktown. The program has also attracted players from New York, California, and even one from Ontario, Canada.
“We were so grateful for the community support during our first year. People came out to our games and allowed players to stay in their homes, and local businesses provided monetary donations and meals for the team. We are proud to have another great roster this season,” Graders General Manager Mike O’Leary said in a statement.
Lee said it feels good to come back to play in an area close to home and sees the Graders as an opportunity to improve his skills.
“You learn something every game,” he said.
Reach Klein at 419-468-1117, ext. 2048 or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.