WHEELING - When the MVP trophies are handed out at the Edgar Martin Beast of the East Classic, organizers might want to keep one back for a special set of game-changers.
It can't be easy for moms and dads to take off work for a four-day weekend, drive 6 hours to an area they've never been, kick in money for lodging, entry fees, and food, but there are thousands of them doing that in the Ohio Valley this weekend.
Photo by Jim Elliott
WHC Renegades pitcher Mike Lein works to the plate against the Ohio Longhorns on Thursday at Patterson Field in Elm Grove.
Just try and keep them away.
''We have a great bunch of people we travel with,'' said Mike Lein, who is town this weekend with the WHC (Western Howard County, Md.) Renegades. ''We take the ups and the downs with the team.''
In this case, Lein is self-employed as a flooring contractor and his wife, Mary, is also able to keep a flexible work schedule.
''We're using this as our vacation,'' he said. ''It's a little stressful on the kids, but we all love baseball. We all have a lot of fun.''
While that's always been a part of the Beast of the East's draw - it's always around the Fourth of July - not all of us always think of our hometown of much of a vacation destination.
''Beautiful fields, beautiful times,'' Lein said. ''You're not going to hear any complaints from the Renegades.''
The Leins are staying in a cabin at Oglebay with other players' families, which certainly is a vacation spot for some.
''The boys sack out where they sack out,'' Lein said, just before being interrupted as his son, also named Mike, was hit by a pitch against the Ohio Longhorns on Thursday during a 1 p.m. game at Patterson Field. ''The adults get the bedrooms.''
It's unlikely a big deal. Some of the WHC players have been on the same team since they were 10. They know each other, their parents know each other. Their dogs have met.
Mark Lein, Jr. was pitching for the Renegades. Doing the catching for the Longhorns in the same game was Tom Yakubowski, whose team traveled down from Akron to play in the Beast.
The Yakubowskis are no strangers to the Ohio Valley, as Tom's grandpap, also named Tom, is an Eastern Ohio native who was inducted into the OVAC Hall of Fame in 2008 after a career in which he was a three-sport standout for Adena High and was the MVP of the 1958 Ohio-W.Va. All-Star Football Game.
In the middle of them is Mark Yakubowski, the CEO of an Anheuser-Busch distributor near Akron, who has a little knowledge of this 'vacation spot' through his dad.
''I know about the fish market,'' he said, referring to Coleman Fish Market in Center Wheeling.
Are the players cognitive of the sacrifices their parents have made in order for them to compete in tournaments like the Beast of the East?
Well, that depends on who you ask.
''Probably not,'' Mark Yakubowski said. ''I didn't when I was younger. Nah, they're just out here to play baseball.''
Lein, meanwhile, thinks they do.
''When our kids are done, the coaches tell them to thank the parents,'' he said. ''They know what we sacrifice. And I know the boys appreciate it.''
Either way, they should. The Beast of the East wouldn't be the same without parents like these and countless others.