Beast of the East Begins Today

ELM GROVE – The sun’s shining brightly, it’s a blistering 90 degrees, and Bo McConnaughy is helping work on the turf at Patterson Field.

It must be time for the Edgar Martin Classic.

Yes, the Beast of the East – the 26th annual – will be coming to a baseball diamond near you this week.

”We’re always excited about it because it’s always great for the community and great for the Ohio Valley,” McConnaughy said last week at the Elm Grove Civics, which has served as the event’s headquarters for years.

”It’s just a big boost for the economy here. I don’t think it’s something we want to see disappear.”

And it won’t. At least if McConnaughy and B.A. Crawford have anything to say about it.

Yes, McConnaughy, the retired West Liberty University baseball coach, and Crawford, the retired Wheeling businessman, have curtailed their involvement with the Beast a bit the past few years. But it’s still their baby. And will remain so, in McConnaughy’s words, ”until we die.”

”B.A. and I are never going to give up the Beast,” McConnaughy stated in an attempt to squash any rumors the pair are retiring as Beast co-directors.

”What we are trying to do is delegate some of the stuff we do and establish some authority figures under us so we don’t have to do all of the work anymore.

”We can teach them how we’ve done it for 26 years. We think it’s been successful the way we’ve done it and we want this to continue when we’re no longer around.

”B.A. and I are not giving up the Beast … ever.”

The duo has built the event into the best of its kind in the country. Teams from all over the United States and Canada annually flock to the Ohio Valley for a baseball festival.

This year’s gem begins today and concludes Sunday on 31 fields.

Of the 31 fields in use this year, three are in Canonsburg, Pa., which is new. Those will be used for the 14U Division.

”We’ve been trying to do that for years because we house a lot of teams up up in Washington (Pa.),” McConnaughy said.

A cast of hundreds is involved in running the event, and McConnaughy is always quick to praise everyone involved.

”The tournament wouldn’t be what it is without those people who take care of the fields,” he said.

Field directors are key. They keep things going smooth at each venue and report all of the scores back to headquarters at the Civics.

The folks who operate the fields are also beneficiaries of proceeds from the Beast. McConnaughy said a variety of other organizations and causes also reap the rewards.

There are some minor changes involving the Classic this year, including one rule. The fake to third and throw to first is now a balk, McConnaughy said.

Also, the scouting showcase, which had taken place on Wednesday, has been dropped. McConnaughy is hoping to replace it with something new next year.

Returning, though, are the Golden Arm and Home Run competitions. They will take place on Thursday at the J.B. Chambers Youth Sports Complex and utilize three fields there, including the Legion field, Lisa’s Field and Ben’s Field.

As with any event, challenges pop up. And McConnaughy said there have been many this year, mostly in the area of scheduling. He said he can’t recall a year where more teams have dropped out or backed out a few weeks, or even days, before the tournament.

”There will be some vacancies in the schedule and it will be our responsibility to see how we’re going to handle that,” he said.

”We’re trying to meet all of those challenges head on and, so far, we’re doing pretty well.”

One thing that hasn’t been a problem has been finding lodging for the participants. Even with the influx of oil and gas workers, McConnaughy said things have gone pretty smoothly.

”The hotels have been very good to us,” he said.

Overall, McConnaughy is looking forward to another fine event.

”We’ve been so busy trying to get teams and just get everything ready that we really haven’t a chance to sit back and reflect on everything,” McConnaughy said.

”Once the tournament’s over, I’m sure B.A. and I will sit down and look at the 26 years and say, 26 years, it’s hard to imagine we’ve been around this long and how much we’ve grown.”