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Traveling all-star softball team had local flavor

November 20, 2012
By John Hartsock ( , The Altoona Mirror

A traveling slow-pitch softball team that captured a World Championship this fall featured a distinctly local flavor.

Altoona's Andrew Criste, 24, was one of several area players on the roster of The Diamond Boys, a team made up of players from around the state of Pennsylvania that captured the championship in the Global Softball World Series this past October in Columbus, Ohio.

Criste was an infielder-outfielder with the team, which played in over 100 games in tournaments in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio and West Virginia this summer, before qualifying for the Global World Series, an event featuring 39 teams that was contested Oct. 13-14 in Columbus.

The Diamond Boys - whose roster also included team captain and shortstop Mike Hanlon of Ashville, infielder-outfielder Joe Grassi of Altoona, and outfielder Ryan Clouse of Cresson among its area players - won all seven games it played in the Global World Series, including a 21-18 decision over Columbus entry M J Lowe in the title game.

Criste, who didn't start playing with the team until about three-fourths of the season because of work commitments, thought the Diamond Boys were one of the more talented squads in the tournament.

"We were one of the better teams in it, so we expected to win it,'' Criste said. "When you go to play in a tournament like that, you have to expect to win. It was a lot of fun. We played well both offensively and defensively.''

The team was directed by player/manager Charles "Bugsy" Roberts of Summerhill and Christian Robbins of Pittsburgh.

"Nothing is obviously a given, but we built the team to go down there and win the tournament,'' Roberts said. "We knew we were taking a good team.''

Criste formerly played organized baseball in both the George B. Kelley Federation and Greater City League. He participated in both the Sunday Doubleheader League and Weekday Doubleheader League in Altoona, where he crossed paths with Roberts.

"The Diamond Boys is a team made up of players from all over Pennsylvania - Altoona, Johnstown, Cresson, Ashville, Summerhill, Pittsburgh, Mount Union, and Lewisburg,'' he said. "I had played with a lot of the players on the team in different leagues.''

The team broke away from its original sponsor late in the season, and Roberts - who owns a landscaping business - and Robbins, took over sponsorship of the squad. The Pit-Stop sandwich shop in Hollidaysburg also assisted the team with sponorship for its trip to the Global World Series.

"The guys on the team still had to put up their own money for hotel rooms and stuff like that,'' Roberts said. "We played in qualifying tournaments all over the place this summer. It's not a cheap hobby to participate in. We're trying to find a company sponsor for next season, but finding a company to sponsor softball teams is not the easiest thing to do.''

If success on the playing field is a bargaining chip for company sponsorship, The Diamond Boys will have a strong argument after winning the Global World Series.

"We played against a lot of good teams and won seven games,'' Roberts said. "Everybody on the team showed up, and everybody did their job. We didn't make too many mistakes, and we had some timely hitting. We had a good weekend.''

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