LILLY - Kurt Farabaugh is stepping down as Johnston Realty's manager after this season.
It's only fitting Farabaugh is leaving with his team at the top - of the Altoona Regional, at least.
Johnston Realty picked up arguably the greatest win in Altoona franchise history Monday, getting a 5-2 win over Youse's Orioles which eliminated the Baltimore entry prior to the All American Amateur Baseball Association National Tournament for the first time in AAABA history. Baltimore has won the last six national championships.
"I've coached and managed teams from Altoona in the AAABA tournament, and this is my 26th year as the franchise representative from Altoona," Altoona Regional Tournament director John Austin said. "This win [over Baltimore] was probably the biggest win in the Altoona franchise's history. We did have Ron Fiochetta one year that went undefeated going into the final day [of the national tournament], but he lost two in a row.
"But today's win over Baltimore, eliminating them from regional play and the national tournament has to be one of the biggest wins ever in our history."
The victory further cemented Farabaugh's spot among Altoona's AAABA history that includes two trips to the national title game - in 1994 and 1999 - which both ended as runner-up finishes.
Johnston Realty won the Altoona Regional in Farabaugh's first year as manager in 2005 and now - after Philadelphia opted to forfeit rather than play today's final regional game - Farabaugh has managed back-to-back Altoona Regional champions.
Farabaugh's club rode the momentum of last year's regional victory to win its first three games of the national tournament during an eventual fourth-place finish after winning its first two games in the national tournament in 2007.
Farabaugh lost offensive weapons Brett Weibley and Matt Adams going into this year. Weibley is currently starring in the elite Cape Cod League and playing Division I baseball at Kent State while Matt Adams was selected in the MLB draft and is tearing up Class A ball for Johnson City in the St. Louis Cardinals organization.
He decided to replace that firepower with, among others, Matt Baer. Baer - a Southern Huntingdon graduate who is attending West Chester University - is barely 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, but Farabaugh inserted him in the No. 3 spot in the lineup.
Baer responded with seven hits in Johnston Realty's pair of victories over Baltimore and Philadelphia and carried the offense more than Weibley or Adams ever did.
Farabaugh's eye for talent such as Baer has a chance to pay off this season. Johnston's roster has nine 20-year-olds, the culmination of a team Farabaugh has built to restore the Altoona franchise back to the success of the 90's.
"This group of players - I think there's like nine of them that are 20-years-old - I signed them up, and I wanted to see them go," Farabaugh said. "I'm really happy for them."
Farabaugh will leave the team to assistant coach Mel Curtis who will face the challenge of restocking the Johnston Realty roster. Curtis will have to deal with at least one additional AAABA team in the Altoona area as former George B. Kelley Federation coach Keith Walters is bringing a AAABA team to the area sponsored by Ketrow Insurance next year.
But if things with Curtis don't work out, Farabaugh isn't ruling out the possibility of making one more run at Altoona's first AAABA National Championship.
"I won't be on the field next year," Farabaugh said. "But when Mel is ready to give it up, I told him that maybe I'd come back."
Whether Farabaugh returns or not, his five-year stint as the Altoona franchise's manager has done nothing but build the prestige of the best amateur baseball in town.
Michael Boytim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 946-7521.