Re-print with permission from Toledo Blade
College players seek extra at-bats, chance to win with Ohio Monarchs
Former high school baseball rivals have banded together this summer in pursuit of a World Series title.
Players from 22 area high schools who now play at the college level have teamed up as part of the Ohio Monarchs amateur baseball team. The Monarchs have Gold and Blue teams that compete in the National Amateur Baseball Federation. They are in the midst of a 50-game summer schedule.
Gold coach Ed Mouch, who also coaches at Southview High School, said his team consists of the best collegiate players who competed in the City League, Northern Lakes League, and other area conferences.
"They were rivals. But now that they've gotten together, they all get along very well," Mouch said. "When they were on opposite teams they were highly competitive with each other, especially in high school when you're competing for championships. But in this situation, they all respect each other and they all know what they can do."
Casey Winckowski, who played at Clay and then for Owens Community College, will be a senior at Erskine College in South Carolina. The third baseman/left fielder is playing for the Monarchs for the third straight summer.
"We all used to battle it out in the City League. But now we're the best of friends," Winckowski said. "We all talk about stories from high school. But we all click as teammates."
Mouch has led the Monarchs Gold team to a 29-6 record this summer. The team has qualified for the NABF's College Division World Series that will be held in the Toledo area Aug. 5-8. The national tournament is for players ages 22 and under.
"These are all northwest Ohio kids who play in college and they come back and want to play during the summer and win as much as you can so they can qualify for the World Series," Mouch said. "The basic idea is to get them their at bats and innings in the summertime. So when they go back [to college], they're set to go."
Central Catholic graduate Colin Meinzer, who now plays at the College of Wooster, is a pitcher and first baseman. Meinzer, who is 7-0 with a 2.47 earned run average in his second season with the Monarchs, said prep rivalries are put aside.
"You might have hated them if they played for a rival school and you hated losing to them, but when the summer comes you get to talk about the games you played," Meinzer said. "We don't have hardcore attitudes anymore. No one holds grudges any more."
Meinzer said during the college season there isn't much "messing around" and you get "straight to business."
"This is much more laid back because you're playing with kids you played with and against in high school," Meinzer said.
Steve Timofeev founded the Monarchs program five years ago due to the lack of a local college summer league team. It started with one team but has since expanded to two.
"We wanted to keep these kids home," Timofeev said. ""The theory is to keep them swinging bats."
Timofeev said the college coaches want their players to continue competing at a high level in the summer.
Drew Kuns, a first baseman from Clay who now plays at Bowling Green State University, said he only had about 45 at-bats for the Falcons this spring.
"This gave me extra at bats and more experience," said Kuns, who was the City League player of the year in 2009. "I wanted to stay and play here locally just to stay tuned and get ready for the next spring."
Winckowski, who is batting .320 with 15 runs batted in, said he has improved every summer with the Monarchs.
"We come out here to get better," Winckowski said "You get more at bats and you work on everything. But baseball also is fun and it's a more relaxed environment. But we come out ready to play and we want to win everything."
The Gold team already won the Tri-State Collegiate League title with a 24-6 record. The Gold also is in first place in the Toledo Federation League (7-0). The Blue team (16-14 Tri-State and 4-4 in the Toledo League) is still attempting to qualify for the NABF World Series.
Timofeev said the players pay $200 to participate. The funds cover uniforms, umpire and field fees among other items.
"The major philosophy behind this program is to get kids who are the best of the best," Timofeev said. "There are kids that have played both with each other and against each other [in high school]. It's kind of a cool aspect."
The NABF World Series will take place next week at Southview High School, Owens Community College, Bowman Park, and Ned Skeldon Stadium.
The World Series has been held in the Toledo area six out of the last seven years. The Gold team won the World Series in 2008 and lost in the semifinals last year.
Winckowski had a game-winning hit to clinch the title two years ago.
"It was awesome to win the first year because no Toledo team had ever done it," he said. "To do that when you're playing against that level of competition, it's something I'm really proud of."
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