KENNETT SQUARE >> For baseball lovers in the Philadelphia area, it’s never too early to start thinking about opening day at Citizens Park.
That’s why the Old Timers of Kennett Square get together every January to honor the great amateur players among them and hear from a pro what’s in store for the following summer.
On Saturday, about 250 of them gathered at the Kennett Fire Company Red Clay room to induct eight guys who had lifelong accomplishments in the sport into the Old Timers Hall of Fame and to chat with retired Phillies All Star Second Baseman Mickey Morandini.
Morandini, 47, is best known for his accomplishment of performing a rare unassisted triple play on the field. These days, he is the coach of the Phillies AAA Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs minor league team.
As the guest speaker, Morandini chose to outline for his audience the complexities and challenges of bringing players up from scouting through the minor leagues to the majors. He emphasized how hard it is to evaluate talent from young players who are barely out of high school. Many young guys who have starred in their home towns have a tough time competing with others from throughout the nation who share the same abilities and more.
But what drew the most interest from the folks at the dinner tables was his take on the coming season for the Phillies during the question-answer period.
Morandini wasn’t optimistic.“It’s gonna be a bad year,” he said.
He added that there are likely trades coming, specifically for Cole Hamels and Ryan Howard, and he zeroed in on the Howard situation.
“What do we do with him? I think it’s time to move on. It’s gonna be a detriment to the team if he doesn’t get traded,” he said, adding, “He would fit in well in the American League where all he had to do was bat.”
For the bright spots, he said Cody Asche and Ben Revere would be good, and “I hope we can get Domonic Brown turned around.”
Morandini said at the present time, their higher level minor league players in the Phillies system are weak, but the lower levels have some good talent coming along.
Morandini still loves baseball, and he said that the best things about it are the stories and the relationships. As for being away from the playing, he said, “I miss competing against the best.”
He said his favorite stadium is Wrigley Field, and his least favorite is the old Mets stadium with planes flying over in New York.
During the presentation of honors for eight local Old Timers, they were called to the dais, presented with a plaque and given a few minutes to share their thoughts. Then they met Morandini and were photographed with him.
The group honored in this, the 35th year of the Old Timers Hall of Fame Banquet, were Mark Grandizio, Gerald Green, Jeffrey Allen Green, Sr., John Kochmansky, David A. Levin, Jr., Paddy Miller, Paul Sergi and Doug Stirling.
Gerald Green lives in Honey Brook and graduated from Concord High School in Wilmington. He had an invitation to try out for the Cincinnati Reds and played at Temple University during his freshman year. He has also played in adult leagues in Kennett Square and traveled to Florida to play in the MSBL Fall Classic tournament.
Jeffrey Greene, Sr., began his baseball career with the Avon Grove Little League in 1972 and hit his first home run as a 9 year old. At Avon Grove High School he played soccer, basketball and baseball. He played in the Kennett summer leagues and received honors at Lincoln University. He had tryouts with the Pirates, Royals, Yankees, Tigers, Astros, Reds and Phillies.
David Levan attended the Coatesville schools and played with the Caln American Legion. He received a full athletic scholarship to Temple University and after college played with the West Chester Adult League and the Coatesville Twilight League.
Paddy Miller is a Kennett High School graduate who played for Old Time Hall of Famer Timmy Skiles.
He played Sam Tavoni softball in Kennett Square and spent may years playing adult leagues in Coatesville, Kennett Square, Delaware County and Oxford.
Paul Mark Sergi played Kennett Little League and Babe Ruth League as a boy and then for Elizabethtown College. He also played for Los Tainos in a Delaware semi-pro league.
Doug Stirling was born and raised in Kennett Square. He played VFW ball growing up as well as Little League and Babe Ruth League. In Kennett High School he played short stop and had a .405 batting average. He also has played American Legion and various adult league teams in the county.
Mark Grandizio is a graduate of Downingtown schools and West Chester University. He played in the Delco MSBL and for the Kennett Blue Rocks. He was player-manager of the Kennett Blue Rocks and batted .440 this past year. He played the last three years in the TriState MSBL, winning back-to-back league championships.
John Kochmansky graduated from the University of Delaware in 1988 where he was the team’s most valuable player and was a .368 hitter. He coaches baseball at East Stroudsburg University and has the PSAC championship in 2013 to his credit. He has also coached 13 first team All-PSAC East selections and 10 regional selections.
The Old Timers Hall of Fame was begun in 1975 by a group of local baseball fans including Bat Burton, Howard Lynn, Donald McKay, Donnie Davenport, Lou Manfrei, John Moynihan, Gordon Farquhar and Joe Husband. The event is now carried on and run by Bob Burton and Prissy Roberts.
Burton’s Barbershop, more than a century old, is the headquarters for the memorabilia and records of the Old Timers Hall of Fame, and also serves as a museum of sorts for pictures, autographs, old baseball equipment and other reminders of the Phillies and local baseball. In its day it has been frequented by Babe Ruth, Eddie Collins, Herb Pennock, Dallas Green and Curt Schilling, among others.
Bob Burton said he was pleased with this year’s banquet and the caliber of the inductees. He said he still hopes more of those inductees from the past would return each year to share the pleasure of anticipating the season with their friends.