The year 2013 started out like any of the past 45. Somebody asked Harry Young if he would sponsor and coach an amateur baseball team, he agreed, and the schedules were printed and the basepaths were lined.
The season proceeded to be unlike any other.
First, Harry was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He’d prefer to forget that part.
Then his team pretty much refused to lose. That part is unforgettable.
Hundreds of local baseball players have played summer ball with the words “Harry Young Builders” on the back of their uniforms. It started in the late 1960s in junior and senior knothole leagues, and his support has touched about every age level.
Harry’s company custom built homes all around the area. He made a few bucks and never hesitated to put some of them back into the sport he loved.
“I just like the game, and I like the players,” Young said.
His presence and guidance has helped a lot of boys transition into men and a lot of younger men into, well, older men. In fact, you could say that as Harry got older so did his teams. Harry has been involved with adult baseball for more than a decade, and his teams have won a couple Roy Hobbs World Series titles.
Some of those same players, including a few who started with Harry as kids, got together last January and asked him for one more year. He said OK, and Harry Young Builders was back in business in the Mid-American Masters Baseball League, for age 45 and older, at Skeldon Stadium in Maumee.
“It was already decided to do it before I was diagnosed” in March, said the 82-year-old Young.
Harry’s involvement enticed some awfully good players onto the roster. Names like Bill Boddy, John Oehlers, and John Locascio, for example, should mean something to anybody who has followed local prep, federation, college, and even pro baseball through the years.
“I remember seeing ‘Harry Young Builders’ on uniforms when I was in senior knothole,” said utility player Mike Kornasiewicz. “Some of the guys who played for him then were on this team. So when the Masters League came up on the radar putting this together was special. And when the guys realized Harry wasn’t well, a good showing was important to everybody.”
And a good showing was what they got. Harry Young Builders went unbeaten — and basically unchallenged — through a 20-game MAMBL schedule. More recently, the team traveled to Fort Myers, Fla., for the Roy Hobbs World Series and kept the magic going until the championship game of the Masters AAA division. Harry’s team finished second out of 65 teams in the tournament.
“It was a tremendous bunch of men, a pleasure to be around,” Harry said. “They made me a winner one more time. I went the whole way, start to finish of the season. It was hard at times, but I made it.”
He may not, however, make it to his own party. The team scheduled its holiday gathering Saturday night, a little earlier than usual, at Maple Grove north of the state line with hopes that Harry would be able to attend.
“Probably not,” Harry said. “I would certainly enjoy it, but I’m not doing so well.”
The show will go on, Kornasiewicz said.
“We’ll have guys there who have played for Harry for a lot of years,” he said. “Everybody just wants to say thanks.”
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6398.