Thirty of the areas best get a dream shot to play at Camden Yards

by Joe DiBlasi

This Sunday at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, immediately following the major league baseball game between the Baltimore Orioles and San Francisco Giants, 30 of the best high school baseball players from across the state of Maryland will participate in the 38th annual Geier Financial Brooks Robinson All-Star game.

The annual North-South match-up features many players from the Baltimore Metro area, with the South squad including several stars from Anne Arundel County, while the North squad has many players from the MIAA and Baltimore County schools.

The game, once known as the Crown All-Star game has had Orioles’ legend Brooks Robinson as its champion since the beginning and, for the last 16 years, the game has endured thanks to the generous support of Joe Geier, a Mount Saint Joseph graduate.

The first ever game, an idea spawned by then Arundel High School coach Bernie Walter, was played in 1982 at Memorial Stadium on 33rd Street.

Walter conceived the idea in 1981, which he said was based on a concept that he saw in Philadelphia. He pitched the plan to coaches from the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) and to Robinson, then a spokesman for Crown Central Petroleum.

“We met with Brooks, Tom Giordano (then Oriole Scouting Director) and a Crown VP, and everybody was on board,” said Walter, who won 10 state championships at Arundel. Walter also won 14 consecutive Baltimore City 19U titles with Johnny’s and six AAABA national championships.

“It was the beginning of the Maryland State Association of Baseball Coaches (which now administers the game), and the start of our own high school all-star game here,” said the legendary coach, who won well over 2,000 games in his career.

Walter coached previous high school all-star participants Adam Kolarek (Tampa Bay) and Josh Hader (Milwaukee), who both played for his Maryland Monarch teams, and major leaguer Denny Neagle (Arundel High), who played for six MLB teams, including the 2000 World Series champion New York Yankees.

“Crown was the sponsor for 22 years and then Geier Financial became the sponsor,” related Walter. “Geier insisted that the game be named for Brooks.”

The legendary Robinson, who was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in 1983, was on hand for a press conference on Thursday at the Camden Yards Warehouse to meet and help introduce this year’s players. Ever gracious, No. 5 took time for every player, posing for photos and offering words of encouragement.

“I’m happy to be here today,” said Robinson. “It’s a real thrill for these all-stars to be able to play in a big league ball park. I grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, and I used to go to Travelers Field, where a Double A team, the Little Rock Travelers played. “I’d go out and workout with those guys.”

Robinson said that was not much compared to being able “to play here at Camden Yards like these guys.”

John Carroll coach Darrion Siler was in awe of being with Brooks, and being selected to help coach the North squad.

“It will be a thrill to be able to stand in that dugout on Sunday, and work with these great players at this great ball park” said Siler, who will assist head coach Ryan Wolfsheimer of Dulaney. “It’s a great honor.”

John and Mike Schmidt, both of Bethesda-Chevy Chase, are also on the North coaching staff. Gerg Mervis of Annapolis Area Christian is the head coach of the South team. Mervis is assisted by Nick Hoffner of Howard.

Although most of the players who appear in Sunday’s game will never play on a major league field again, history says some may very well do so. The following is a list of alumni from the Brooks Robinson All-Star Game who went on to play in the majors:

Josh Banks – Severna Park High School
Brian Bark – Randallstown High School
Troy Brown – Dorchester High School
Steve Clevenger – Mount St. Joseph High School
Ken Cloude – McDonogh High School
Tim Drummond – Thomas Stone High School
Gavin Floyd – Mount St. Joseph High School
Josh Hader – Old Mill High School
Steve Johnson – St. Paul’s School
Brian Jordan – Milford Mill High School
Adam Kolarek – Catonsville High School
Steve Lombardozzi – Atholton High School
Justin Maxwell – Sherwood High School
Denny Neagle – Arundel High School
Mike O’Connor – Mount St. Joseph High School
Billy Ripken – Aberdeen High School
Greg Smith – Glenelg High School
Mark Teixeira – Mount St. Joseph High School
Ryan Thompson – Kent County High School
Craig Wilson – Annapolis High School
Gerald Witasick – C. Milton Wright High School

Pictured above: Dulaney manager Ryan Wolfsheimer will get one last chance to manage one of his Lions’ stars, Bryce Frederick (right). Both posed with Brooks Robinson and will be part of the North team.

Here are Sunday’s rosters followed by a gallery of photos of players with the legendary Brooks Robinson at Thursday’s press conference: