WHEELING - The Edgar Martin Beast of the East Baseball Classic has reached a significant milestone, as it celebrates its 25th playing, beginning July 4.
Since its inception, the highly successful amateur baseball tournament, which has grown exponentially during those years, has been run by former West Liberty University baseball coach Bo McConnaughy and former Wheeling-area businessman B.A. Crawford.
As the years have gone by, both men have realized they won't be able to do this forever. Crawford lives in Florida full-time these days and has started another endeavor with a world-class high school girls' basketball tournament that draws every top player and every Division I coach in the country.
So with whom does the future of the Beast of the East lie?
''We're looking for guys who are as serious about it as B.A. and I are,'' McConnaughy said. ''The ideal situation would be for our sons to take over. B.A.'s son Brad and my son Jeremy. We're going to try to do that over the next 4-5 years. B.A. and I are never going to give it up, by any means. We'll be there but we're grooming some guys to take over.''
While it's all still up in the air, McConnaughy thinks he's got someone in John Pastorius, a longtime contributor to the Beast who today helps run the scoring and standings for the event.
''We've got John that we're grooming to take over B.A.'s spot to do the scheduling and contacting the teams,'' McConnaughy said. ''Right now we know John is one. We're still looking for the others.''
Still, as he said, as long as each man has a heartbeat, they'll be at the tournament.
''We enjoy it. It's something we created,'' McConnaughy said. ''We never envisioned it would be this big. It's become its own entity, and we don't want to see it die.''
Twenty-five years is certainly something to smile about. And the tournament, through the years, has established itself as one of the biggest - and best - in the business.
In that time, so too have many of the field directors. Some of them have been on board since the tournament's inception.
''Obviously the field directors have grown with us. Most of them have been with us since the beginning. Over the years, we've added,'' McConnaughy said.
''Our concern is that as we get older, they get older. At some point in time, we're going to run out of time to enjoy what we enjoy doing. They enjoy doing it, and they look forward to it. It's part of their life. The thing we're looking at is how long can we continue that?''
So there figures to be a changing of the guard at the top levels of the Beast moving forward, with McConnaughy hoping to see it stay on top as long as possible.
''I'd like for the tournament to live on long after we're gone, but that remains to be seen,'' he said. ''Personally, I hope it would happen, but the way things are now, there's not a lot of interest for people who want to get involved in it (people of a younger age). I would like to think that they would. But who knows how much it would cost to travel in the future?''