by Pete Mazzaccaro
It’s been a long time since the Chestnut Hill Youth Sports Club began competing in the Philadelphia American Legion League.
When it started competing in 1976 there were always at least eight teams – most sponsored by a local American Legion/VFW post. These posts had vast territories in the city and collected baseball talent that was always formidable from areas like Roxborough/Manayunk and South Philadelphia.
At the time, CHYSC was still called the Fathers Club, and while it always put together great teams from players in Chestnut Hill, Mt Airy and Germantown, it never managed to put together a streak of wins to win the title until this year.
This year’s team finally collected a league title, besting five other teams in the league and beating the Corp. John Loudenslager post’s team in a final contest.
“We always have had good teams,” said CHSC president Dennis Primavera, whose involvement with the club goes back to the mid 80s as a coach. “We were never able to put a run together to win. … this year we were able to put it all together.”
While the American Legion has faded some in recent years because of the rising popularity of American Amateur Union (AAU) teams, which put together (or take depending on your view) talent from a broad region for tournament play, the Legion still draws top players making for a competitive league.
American Legion teams are generally for top players in a region between the ages of 17 and 19. Primavera said younger kids can join if the coaches believe they have the talent, but 19 is the maximum age allowed.
Head coach Gerry Givnish,a 20-year baseball coach who coached baseball for Germantown High School and now Martin Luther King High, has been coaching the seniors CHYSC team for 10 years.
“This was the thrill of a lifetime,” he told the Local. “I’ve never won a championship before.”
Givnish said he knew when the season began that it might be special. Players on the team were assembled from all over Northwest Philadelphia. Some were recruited from Martin Luther King. Others were brought in who play for Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. It was a truly diverse group, Givnish noted. And they were talented, he said.
“We were able to win all the close games,” he said about what set the team apart. “We had great pitching, good defense and played small ball.”
One such game in the playoffs, Givnish said, involved a tie game in the 9th in which CHYSC managed to drive in a run on a misplayed ball into the stands.
“We still had to come out for three more outs and we got ’em,” Givnish said. “It was an amazing win.”
For more information about CHYSC’s baseball program, find it online at http://www.chysc.org/baseball/