WHEELING - Calling the opportunity to play American Legion baseball among the best of times in his young life, Ricky Szeligo hopes to provide much of the same experiences for the youths that will be wearing Wheeling Post 1 uniforms beginning next spring.
Szeligo, a 25-year-old who was a diamond standout at Wheeling Central and Wheeling Jesuit University, was named this past weekend to succeed Tom Pasco as the manager for the Wheeling Legion squad.
''In Ricky Szeligo we have a young man who is energetic, enthusiastic and excited about what he is going to be doing,'' said Wheeling resident David Koehler, president of the Post 1 American Legion Athletic Club.
''Tom left the program in good shape. We have a good many players coming back and hopefully Ricky's enthusiam and hustle will encourage more kids to come on board.''
Szeligo, a pitcher-infielder, spent three years (2004-2006) playing for Post 1 on Don Morris-coached teams that twice captured Area One championships and advanced to the West Virginia state tournament.
He also played on a West Virginia Class A state championship team at Wheeling Central in 2005 and was the winning pitcher in a 17-4 victory against Clarksburg Notre Dame in the state final at Power Park in Charleston.
Szeligo earned all-state, All-Valley and All-OVAC laurels that season before going on to Wheeling Jesuit's program that is still led by highly respected area baseball coach Terry Edwards, who also was Ricky's high school coach his freshman and sophomore seasons.
At WJU, Szeligo was a four-year letterman at second base, earning All-WVIAC laurels after a standout 2007 season. Ricky underwent Tommy John surgery in 2009 but bounced back from that problem to finish his collegiate career.
Last spring, Szeligo was drafted by Chicago-based Windy City Thunderbolts in the Frontier league but was released after suffering an arm injury. He then returned home and played in the Ohio Valley Baseball League.
Szeligo takes over a program that Pasco coached to five straight Area One titles before yielding that crown to Moundsville Post 3 this season. Wheeling, as the host team for the 2012 American Legion state tournament, was part of the six-team field but was eliminated by its long-time rival Moundsville in the third round.
Szeligo believes his youth will be a plus as he assumes the Post 1 leadership role.
''Being fresh out of the game I feel I can relate to the players. I want to establish a good program that will give the kids I coach a chance to excel,'' he said.
Szeligo was well prepared to enter the coaching ranks after having played under Edwards at both Central and WJU and Jimbo Wodusky, his coach during his last two seasons in high school.
''I learned a lot from both them and also from Jeff Baire, during my first two years at Wheeling Jesuit,'' Szeligo explained. Baire left the WJU staff to take over the baseball job at Weirton Madonna, where he coached the Blue Dons to a state baseball crown.
Szeligo also revealed that Andrew ''Budda" Henry had agreed to return to the Post 1 coaching staff in 2013. Henry, former Wheeling Legion, Central Catholic and West Liberty University baseball performer, was one of Pasco's assistant coaches.
''Budda loves the game as much as anybody I know,'' Szeligo said.''The kids on last year's team respected him a lot and I'm looking forward to working with him.''
Koehler said that the Post 1 baseball committee also was pleased to have Henry stay on the coaching staff and it was pointed out that one other assistant coach will be named in the near future.
''The committee has talked with several candidates and we expect to announce our other coach soon,'' Koehler added.