WHEELING - The games aren't scheduled to begin (weather permitting) until Thursday, but there will still be plenty of action today surrounding the 24th annual Edgar Martin Beast of the East Baseball Classic.
The Elm Grove Civics building and adjoining Patterson Field in Elm Grove will be buzzing with excitement this morning as players connect with scouts and coaches at the annual Player's Showcase.
''The (Player's Showcase) has become so big that we've had to go to three sessions - a 9 a.m. session, a 1:30 p.m. session and a 5 p.m. session,'' explained Beast co-director Bo McConnaughy on Wednesday as he finalized preparations inside the Civics for the five-day event.
Beast of the East co-director Bo McConnaughy sorts through some papers as the tournament is set to begin today with the Player Showcases.
Photo by Rick Thorp
The Ohio Valley will be playing host to 156 teams and a majority of those players will be at Patterson today to showcase their wares.
And there could be more coaches in attendance thanks to a recent NCAA ruling regarding contact with players.
''College coaches are now allowed to talk to juniors,'' said McConnaughy, who recently retired as West Liberty University's baseball coach.
''In years past we weren't allowed to talk to players until after their junior year on June 15.
''So this is a really big thing for the coaches to be able to come out and they can actually recruit the 15s and 16s.''
Today's activities will conclude with a college recruiting seminar at 8:30 p.m. inside Wheeling Park's White Palace.
Once the games commence, 32 fields across the Ohio Valley will be utilized.
''My compliments go to all the people running those fields,'' said McConnaughy, who directs the event along with retired Wheeling businessman B.A. Crawford.
''We have 32 different organizations that help us run this. We get many compliments from the teams on how they are treated. In fact, many teams request to go back to certain fields because they are treated so well.''
The organizations that operate fields reap plenty of rewards, but so does the entire area.
According to McConnaughy, an economic impact study conducted last year showed the Beast generates $8 million for the region.
With the influx of natural gas workers into the region, some folks had concerns the valley's lodging establishments wouldn't be able to hold all of the visitors once the Beast arrived. McConnaughy said that's not the case.
''Most of the hotels have been with us since we started (in 1989),'' McConnaughy said. ''When the Beast is over every year B.A. goes out and contracts with them. They have been very good with us and this couldn't exist without them.''
Such is the case with the Civics. Its members have been major assets to the tournament since its inception, according to McConnaughy, and this year will be no exception.
The public is invited to visit the Civics between 3-7 p.m. for a rigatoni dinner. Fireworks will take place there Friday night and prior to the show Patterson Field will be dedicated to fallen local armed forces hero David Van Camp.
''It's very gratifying because this thing has blossomed into a hallmark for the valley,'' McConnaughy said.