OVBL?opens season Sunday

Play ball!

The ‘Boys of Summer’ will swing back into action Sunday with five games scheduled as the 2011 Steele and Cook Insurance Ohio Valley Baseball League gets under way.

“The OVBL is proud to announce that Steele and Cook Insurance will remain our corporate sponsor in 2011,” league commissioner Cory Delguzzo said. “Steele and Cook Insurance has been a trademark in the Ohio Valley for many years and the OVBL is excited to have them as a sponsor.

“This means a lot to the league for them to come back this season,” Delguzzo added. “This shows that they have confidence in the league and they actually enjoyed watching the games last season.”

While the league expanded to eight teams with the addition of Bellaire last season, it has grown to 10 squads this season as Shadyside and Warren Township have joined. Also, Bellaire has moved its team to Lafferty.

“This is the most teams that we’ve had in the league for quite a while,” Delguzzo noted. “This will be our sixth season with wooden bats and I think the media coverage that we have received and the success that the league has enjoyed over the past few years is very appealing to the fans and players. It stirs up a desire to play and a desire to come out and watch good baseball.”

Matt Steele, representing the insurance agencies that have offices in Martins Ferry and St. Clairsville, said they are excited about the 2011 season.

“We are proud to be a part of the OVBL, especially since it is growing once again this year,” he added.

Barton is the two-time defending champions, but change has hit the Braves in 2011.

Mike Kolvek, who has served as the player-manager for the past several seasons, has stepped down this season to spend more time with his wife and newborn daughter, although he hasn’t ruled out some playing time here and there.

Taking over the Barton reins is former manager Bill Timko, who guided the Braves to their first-ever league championship back in the 1990s.

“I kind of missed it,” Timko admitted. “I came back and watched the games the last couple of years and I got excited about it. It’s good to be back.”

With the Braves being two-time titlists, Timko is aware of the pressure awaiting him.

“There’s definitely going to be some pressure. Mike won two titles and I have one. That’s why I came back,” he joked.

Managers returning for another season include Laney Simone Sr. (Maynard), Todd Heitz (Lafferty), Bob Sabo (St. Clairsville), Eric Sperlazza (Weirton) and Jesse Nixon (Wheeling). New skippers are Mark Bonar (Shadyside), Robby Banyas (Warren Township) and Cliff Francis (Neffs). West Liberty had yet to return its information.

Sunday’s schedule has two-time defending champion Barton hosting Lafferty; Maynard entertaining St. Clairsville; Neffs visiting Weirton; Shadyside welcoming Wheeling; and West Liberty treking to Warren Township.

Barton plays its home games at Henning Field in Crescent, while Maynard uses the Community Park diamond. St. Clairsville plays at Memorial Park, with Lafferty playing in Lafferty and Warren Township using the field in Tiltonsville. Wheeling’s home field is Patterson Field in Elm Grove, while Weirton’s home diamond is Ed Bowman Field and Shadyside uses Fleming Field. West Liberty plays at Kovalick Field on the campus of WLU. Neffs plays at Neffs.

North can be reached at knorth@timesleaderonline.com