GALION — The Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League, a wooden bat baseball league featuring college players from various schools throughout the country, is gearing up for another season. With that comes the fourth season that the hometown Galion Graders will be in action throughout Ohio, Indiana and Michigan.
Led by General Manager Mike O’Leary and first-year head coach Neil Schaffner, the Graders will take to their home diamond, Heddleson Field, which is located inside Galion’s Heise Park, for the first time in 2018 on Tuesday, June 12 at 7:05 p.m. after opening the season with a two-game stint on the road against the Licking County Settlers (June 9 and 10).
“There has been a lot going on with the club,” begins O’Leary. “We are welcoming a brand new coaching staff this season, trying to bring in even more community involvement whether it be food trucks, various sponsored tournaments…anything that we can to try and get everyone more involved in the team and the City of Galion as a whole.”
The Graders, who this summer will be a member of the Southern Division alongside the aforementioned Settlers, the Cincinnati Steam, the Xenia Scouts, the Richmond Jazz, the Southern Ohio Copperheads and the Hamilton Joes, will look to keep momentum towards progressing Galion into the likes of competitors.
“I think that every year the league rearranges the divisions,” laughs the general manager. “No one really knows how or why they change it up as often, I am just glad that we’re no longer in a division with the Locos.”
The Lima Locos have had much success against the Graders over the years, including going 8-0 against Galion a season ago. In 2017, the Locos claimed the GLSCL Championship, finishing with a record of 30-11, best in all of the league. In 2017, the Graders third season in the league, Galion posted a 19-22 overall record, the highest winning percentage (.463) in the team’s short history.
“With the new staff coming aboard, with their wealth of baseball knowledge and pair that with the desire to make not only the Graders, but the City of Galion, more well known?…I’d say that the drive is there and we’re working dilligently to make Heddleson Field the place to be in the area on game nights,” states O’Leary, enthusiastically.
Galion will be returning just three players from last season’s roster but the new additions seem to already be a fit to the club, despite not having met up with their summer teammates. Two pitchers, Justin Longbrake and Clay Davies, will find themselves back on the mound for another summer with the Graders and will be joined by outfield patroler and clutch-hit extraordinare, Austin Hathaway. Also on the Graders’ roster for this summer is 2017 Galion High School alum, pitcher Mac Spears, currently of Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio.
“As an administration, we are still trying to iron out some of the details with possible tournaments throughout the summer, additional food possibilities and anything else that we can do to bring more people out to the games in the park to watch some baseball,” finishes O’Leary. Typically, the Graders will hold a Home Run Derby at the field during Galion’s Pickle Run Festival but the general manager has made it clear that he wants to go above and beyond the norm.
So, if you are like me and could spend every moment of free time taking in some baseball, Heddleson Field is the place to be throughout June and July. Bring down your children, significant other or even your grumpy step-father that loves the game, a comfortable fold-out chair and your wallet down to the park. Chances are, you’ll find me there, perched in my chair behind home plate, doing my part to keep baseball alive in the City of Galion. Also, you’ll likely find a chipper bunch at the concession stand and if you ask for an @GalionSportsDog, they will, more than likely, happily oblige.
Can’t make it out to a game but have Twitter access? Check out the team’s handle (@GalionGraders) or, if I’m at the game, I will be posting updates on my Twitter (@GalionSportsGuy). You can always find results, stats and a full schedule from any team within the league at the GLSCL website: http://pointstreaksites.com/view/greatlakesleague/home.