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Chester County Press

Bowa, Vermeil, and a celebration of baseball

01/17/2022 05:56PM ● By Steven Hoffman
The Kennett Old Timers Baseball Association last week welcomed six new players to its hall of fame and also honored one local coach with a special recognition award.
About 200 guests at the annual banquet applauded the inductees at dinner in the Kennett Fire Company’s Red Clay Room on Saturday night as frigid breezes whipped the air outside.
The program featured the recitation of the inductees’ accomplishments and awarding of plaques, as well as the keynote speech by Larry Bowa, the Philadelphia Phillies’ former All-Star player, coach and current senior advisor.
The Kennett Old Timers Baseball Association Hall of Fame, with a home at Burton’s Barber Shop in the borough, was established in 1974 to recognize the baseball achievements of individuals local players who starred on the baseball diamond.
Those who were recognized in the 2022 class were Tony Brown, Jeff Crittendon, Jeff Riccardo, Joseph Sexton, Jason Troilo and Jeff Wenrich. 
Former Unionville-Chadds Ford School District Superintendent Charles “Chuck” Garris was given the special award for achievement in coaching for his long tenure as a baseball coach from 1963 to 1994.
In addition to the awards and speeches, the banquet held a silent auction of baseball memorabilia and offered a short video featuring the accomplishments of the inductees.
One of those items being auctioned off was a wine collection from Dick Vermeil, the popular former Philadelphia Eagles football head coach who guided the St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl victory in 1999. Vermeil was on hand to greet guests and congratulate this year’s class of hall of fame inductees. He currently owns and operates a winery in California and was invited by Kennett Old Timers Baseball president Bob Burton to be a guest and bring some wine for the raffle. 
Bowa, who was prominent with the Phillies as a shortstop, hitter and later a manager, said in his speech that his favorite baseball memory is being part of the 1980 Phillies team that won the World Series. He hit .375 during that series. 
“I will never forget it,” Bowa said. 
Bowa was also named to the National League All-Star team several times and is a member of the Phillies Wall of Fame, alongside greats like Richie Ashburn, Robin Roberts, Mike Schmidt and others.  He is still part of the Phillies organization, currently serving as an advisor to the general manager.
Bowa consistently reminded his audience that the climb to excellence and recognition he received during his long baseball career has taken grit and hard work. He was quick to point out that throughout high school he failed to make the baseball team and emerged as a player only in junior college.
With self-depreciating humor, he relayed how, when he was being scouted for the Major Leagues, he got kicked out of the first two games.
When he finally made it to Single-A level in the minor leagues, Bowa explained, he struck out four times in the first game.
Throughout a career of recognized accomplishments in fielding, base running and hitting, he still failed at hitting home runs, partially because of his relatively small size for baseball.
Bowa’s main message to his audience was persistence, hard work, mental toughness and the support of his family.
“If you can say you gave 100 percent and lose, you turn the page and think about what happens now,” Bowa explained. “Play the game like it’s your last game. No one knows when they’re gonna play their last game.”
He told the audience that adversity makes one a better person and that he was skeptical of pre-game gestures of affection for the opposing team.
“You have to hate them during the game,” he said of the opposition.
 He added that he loves Philadelphia and its fans, and that’s why he continues to work for the Phillies organization.
“Philadelphia is about blue-collar people. If you aren’t mentally tough, they will eat you up. If you let it bother you, they let you know it,” he said.
Those who were inducted into the Old Timers Hall of Fame represent years of outstanding playing in various areas of Chester County baseball.
Sexton, a resident of Kennett Square, grew up playing baseball for a team in Landenberg before he spent two years playing on a KAU Little League squad. He went on to be a pitcher and a shortstop for the Kennett High School team, playing under coach Nate Kendig, who had an enormous impact on baseball players in this area. After high school, Sexton played in the Hockessin Adult Hardball League. He also later managed and coached in the KAU Little League and Kaolin Little League. 
Crittenden played for the Kennett Rec League and then the KAU Little League while growing up. He played Babe Ruth League baseball and then moved on to play for the Unionville High School baseball team. Crittenden achieved a great deal of success playing college ball at Brandywine University and then Millersville University. He was a third baseman and pitcher. He was an MVP during his sophomore year at Brandywine University and won a batting title for Millersville University.
Wenrich was an outfielder and a pitcher while playing high school ball at Avon Grove High School. He also played for one season on the Unionville American Legion team. He went to the NAIA College World Series in Iowa in 1994 and 1995 as a member of the team from Wilmington College (now Wilmington University). He was the NAIA Northeast Region Player of the Year in 1994, and a NAIA First Team All American selection in 1994. The next year, he was an NAIA Honorable Mention All American selection. He was also inducted in the Wilmington University Hall of Fame in 2011.
Brown played in the KAU Little League for the Rotary in the minors before moving up to the Optimist team in the majors. He played one year in the Babe Ruth League, which turned out to be the last year it existed in Kennett—the following year KAU started the Senior League for ages 13 to 15, where he played two more years for the Optimist team.
Troilo grew up in Avondale and he and his brother, Joe, loved baseball. Jason’s youth baseball experience started with the KAPRB and then KAU Little League. He played three years of varsity baseball as a catcher at Kennett High School under coach Tim Skiles. While at James Madison University, he played at the Division I level and competed in the Colonial Athletic Association.  After a very successful senior season, which was highlighted by an ABCA All-American selection, he was offered a contract by the New York Yankees. His professional playing career included five years in the Yankees organization with experience at the Single-A, Double-A, and Triple-A levels. 
Riccardo of Downingtown earned the outstanding athlete award at Bishop Shanahan in 1989. He began his adult baseball career in 1990 with the Jays Baseball Club and then spent 26 years playing in the West Chester Adult League. At various times, he was named MVP and led in hits, doubles, triples and home runs. In his career, he accumulated 581 hits.
Garris began coaching Little League in 1963 and 1964, Senior Little League in 1965, and then the Pony League in 1966 and 1967. He went on to coach Little League and Senior Little League with his brother, Cliff, in Freeport, Pa. from 1967 until 1973. After moving to Coatseville, in 1980, he coached in the Caln Little League and Caln Senior Little League. Dr Garris coached one year for the Caln American Legion team and, after moving to Kennett Square, he managed the Kennett American Legion team for several years.