2016 – 22nd Annual Freeport Invitational

The week was somewhat marred by hot, humid weather and more rain outs than we’ve ever had in the past. The rain was hit and miss, so some fields would lose a game or two, while games went off as scheduled at other fields. Freeport Borough field was able to have the Sonny Westerman Oldtimers’ Game Thursday night, despite some major rain during the day. The final game, USA vs. the World, was also held, despite some rain in the later innings. Fireworks went off without a hitch.

One of the most fun things about this week is having international players and coaches with us. This year we were able to host house all of them and it was a great experience for all.

John and Diane Geist housed the Australians, as usual. Over the years they have built such a close relationship that it has become family. The Geists have vacationed in Australia more than once thanks to this friendship that would not have happened otherwise.

We had one player from Israel this year, Ilan Klein, who was housed by Bill Girardi and his house mates, Jeff Polana and John Saltarelli. Not only did they house Ilan, but they “stepped up to the plate” and did transportation to and from the airport when delays scrubbed our initial arrangement. Ilan’s hosts said it was a very enjoyable week for them; and Ilan told Bill, on the way back to the airport, that it was the most memorable week in his life. Their door is always open to him, baseball week or not. And, full disclosure, they and their next door neighbors, Bill and Priscilla Hall hosted a picnic for the French team and some of our Board Members (yum!)

Dan Heilman kept two French boys and really entertained them well with fishing, ping pong, pool, a trip to see the movie Tarzan, and even a Kennywood outing. Language was a bit difficult until another host told him about the translator program he was able to download on his iPhone. The boys were shy but delightful and Dan was glad he did it and feels the boys would carry home a cache of memories worth having.

The Japanese boys were hosted by three families and they loved the experience. There were many tears shed (on both sides) when they had to say good bye and all three families want the boys to return and want them to come for a longer period next year! The Kowalski family had a great time with their 3 Japanese “sons”. Their boys knew Taiki who was here last year and loved having Taiki, his brother Yuki, and friend Hiro with them. The five boys had a great time spending the week together. They went to the Pittsburgh Zoo, went shopping, played Frisbee-golf and lots of Wii, helped celebrate their son Brandon's birthday, and of course played lots of baseball! By the end of the week these boys felt more like family than guests. Would they consider hosting again --most definitely Yes!

Kris Cernicky tell us that when her family decided to host the boys from Japan never in a million years did she expect the experience to be so rewarding, educational and fun! After having 2 of the boys stay with her family and 2 with their neighbors she can honestly say: “We now have extended family in Japan. My own kids even cried when we said "see you next year' to our sons/brothers. We keep in touch with the boys via email and snapchat. I was so blessed to have this opportunity and hope to host more kids next year.” Kris Cernicky, American Mom to Tsugu and Hayato

Karen Savage and Fred Walker were fortunate enough to host 6 of the French baseball players. A lot of people thought they were crazy for taking 6 teenagers but their hearts and home were big enough. The boys gave them treats from LeBretagne – caramels, cookies, crepes. Karen and Fred became attached to them instantly and spent time with them doing activities when there was no game. She said it was hard to say goodbye, lots of hugging and Karen and Fred have an open invitation to visit them in France. The last boy Karen hugged said to her, “You are engraved in my heart.” Doesn’t that say it all!!!

The complete emails describing the hosts’ experiences, this year and in the past, can be accessed by clicking on Hosting at the top of this Home Page. This document will also tell you what is expected of host homes.

So, to wrap it up, there were some negatives, primarily with the weather, but nevertheless it was a great week of baseball at the two Freeport fields and at the Springdale, Valley Complex, Kiski and Ford City fields. Many thanks have been sent to all those who helped- field directors, umpire in chief, merchandise and concession stand people, vocalists, announcers and of course hosts. When you see any of these great volunteers, please give them your thanks.

And finally, to those who live in Freeport, please follow the news and make sure the Borough council sees fit to keep the baseball field here – without it there would be no Freeport International Baseball Invitational!

Check your 5k results here!

A big thank you to all the teams, players, volunteers, and sponsors that made the 2016 Freeport International Baseball Invitational a success. Pictures and the 5k race results will be posted on the site shortly.

The Freeport International Baseball Invitational is not a tournament. There are no trophies, no awards, no MVPs and no All-Stars. Everyone who participates - from the coaches and the players, to the concession stand workers and all the folks in the bleachers join in simply for the love of the game.


Sarver Vets Club
641 Sarver Rd
Sarver, PA 16055