Any young baseball player spends their nights dreaming about what it would be like to play in a professional ballpark while hearing their names presented over the loudspeakers. On Tuesday, Apr. 11, members of the William Allen and Louis E. Dieruff high school baseball teams had the chance to make those dreams a reality.
The first pitch was at 3:00 p.m. on a warm, bluebird sky day in Coca-Cola Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies Triple-A affiliate Lehigh Valley IronPigs. That (ceremonial) pitch was thrown out by the Allentown mayor Matt Tuerk, a powerful symbol of support to these young men from the leader of their city. This conference matchup ended 4-2 in favor of William Allen but was extremely competitive through all seven innings. It was clear that a high level of preparation and organization went into both teams’ game plans for this afternoon’s ballgame.
What made the game even more special was that it was played in honor of Jackie Robinson Day, celebrated officially on Apr. 15. Robinson, the first Black person to play in the major leagues during the modern era, is a symbol of inclusivity, strength in the face of extreme adversity and a vehicle for equality across the world of athletics. For these local young men to be able to play a game in a minor league stadium while recognizing one of the most iconic figures in sports is a cherishable moment for the athletes, friends, families and high schools they attend.
William Allen, the home team for this neutral site contest, started junior Ben Moretz on the mound. While he took a few batters to settle in, when Moretz found his groove he was lights out. He gave up two baserunners in the first inning, making it seem like it could be a long afternoon for the Canaries’ pitcher, but when he ended the second inning by freezing a Dieruff batter for a strikeout looking, the poise and moxie expelling from the mound was a joy to watch.
William Allen had a few other standout players as part of the 2024 class. Starting third baseman Trevor Golden had a nice outing, making clean contact at the plate and flashing the glove on multiple occasions to keep Dieruff at bay. Allen catcher Aaron Schnieder was also rock solid behind the plate, commanding his pitchers for all seven innings while contributing gritty, multiple-pitch at-bats.
It was a sight to see these student-athletes emerge from minor league quality dugouts each inning with music blasting from the rafters. Dieruff even brought their pep band to the ballpark, a memorable aspect of a game full of emotion and pride from all involved in the contest, from players to coaches to fans. Knowing the amount of commitment and sacrifice it takes to participate in any high school sport and having it be rewarded in such a way for these local ballplayers shows any onlooker the exceptional, organic influence sport has on people of all ages.
As the names of the players audibly engrossed the stadium as each player made their short journey to the plate before an at-bat, the game, literally and figuratively, stood still for a moment. Youth sports have never been about the results. It has been and should always be about the development of children into mature, respectful, compassionate and kind young adults who, through being a part of a team and competing with other players, have learned valuable life lessons that will resonate with them throughout their lives.
This commemorative meeting of two local Allentown high schools at a minor league ballpark was exemplary of the characteristics that make youth sports special and it was right in our backyard! As students immerse themselves in the final few weeks of their spring seasons here at Muhlenberg, it might be beneficial to take a step back and recognize where their passion and excitement derived from.