Editor’s Note: This is the first of two parts highlighting the 2021 class members of the Somerset County Baseball Oldtimers Hall of Fame.
The Somerset County Baseball Oldtimers will host the 24th Annual Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony from noon to 5 p.m. at Stoystown American Legion Post 257.
The most recent class is being inducted. The Stanley “Chief” Thomas Award for the County‘s Top Baseball Coaches, the Nathan J. Codispoti Award for Outstanding Player and the William “Bill” Love Spirit of the Game Award will also be presented.
Here’s a look at four of the Hall of Fame 2021 class.
To resign:Mike Blucas helped develop the North Star baseball program as a player and coach
John E. Zadzora
John E. Zadzora began his baseball career in 1967 in the four-team Boswell Lions Little League as a member of the Giants. After Little League, he played for Boswell in the Somerset County Minor League.
In 1974, he was the most valuable hitter with an average of .500 at the Jaycees Boswell Area Minor League Baseball Tournament. Zadzora continued to play American Legion baseball for Boswell Post 461. He also played baseball for North Star High School, where he graduated in 1975. Zadzora continued to play softball for 25 years (1976- 2001) and won the league championships in 1993 and 1996 with the North Star Equipment team.
Zadzora began his coaching career in the Somerset County Midget League in 1987 and 1988 with the Jenners Jaguars. He coached the Boswell Bear Cubs in the Somerset County Legion Junior League from 1989 to 1991. Zadzora was also the league president in 1990.
He founded the Boswell Area Jaycees High School Baseball Classic in 1994 and was the tournament director. The 26th tournament just took place last April. Zadzora has participated in the Boswell Area Jaycees Little League tournament for over 20 years.
In 1995 and 1996, Zadzora hosted the Boswell Historical Society Oldtimers Baseball Games for former members of the Boswell American Legion Post 461 and Stoystown American Legion Post 257 baseball teams. The matches included many players and coaches who were later inducted into Somerset. County Oldtimers Baseball Hall of Fame.
For the past 23 years, Zadzora has been a sports radio broadcaster and was a member of the broadcast team that called the 2008 PIAA 3A State Championship baseball game between Somerset and Berwick at Blair County Ballpark in Altoona. He also called three Hershey High School Basketball State Championships at the Giant Center: North Star Girls in 2016, Berlin Girls in 2019, and Berlin Boys in 2021.
Close quarters:Three generations of Closes share ties through Legion baseball
Wayne Miller is honored to be inducted into the Somerset County Oldtimers Baseball Hall of Fame. As a player and coach, Wayne considered himself lucky to be part of several successful teams alongside many great teammates and coaches.
While playing under coach Ed Danel for Meyersdale High School, Miller compiled a career 17-3 record while helping the Red Raiders win three Somerset County titles and a District 5 championship. during his high school career. Miller was honored as Somerset County’s Most Valuable Baseball Player in 1995. He was a pitcher, shortstop and outfield for the Somerset Baseball Club in 1995 and 1996 while being coached by his uncle John Kamalsky. The 1996 Somerset team won the Turnpike League and the 1995 team finished second in the Turnpike League.
Miller was also proud to be a member of the Meyersdale Legion Junior Team which placed third at the Pennsylvania State Tournament in 1993 under coach Mike Shumaker.
Collegiate Miller had a career pitching record of 12-6 with two saves at the University of Shippensburg. A highlight of his college career came in his senior year when the Raiders won the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Championship.
In college, Miller also played summer ball with Principle Development in the Johnstown AAABA League. Miller contributed as the starting pitcher and outfielder for the 1997 principle development team that won the league’s regular season title. Miller also had the privilege of playing as a pick-up player with the Sani-Dairy AAABA team which secured a third place finish at the 1997 AAABA National Tournament.
Miller began coaching at Meyersdale as an assistant coach to his uncle John Wiltrout in 2001. He was the Red Raiders head coach from 2007 to 2018 and compiled a career record of 204-50.
During his tenure on the Meyersdale staff, the Raiders won seven WestPAC titles and three District 5 titles. Meyersdale also qualified for the PIAA West Final in 2002, finished runner-up in the PIAA in 2016 and won the PIAA Class A Championship in 2017.
Miller said he would like to especially thank his supportive parents and grandparents, especially his grandfather Jim Wiltrout, for being his first and most important coach. Miller added that he would like to thank and recognize the Oldtimers for all they do for youth baseball in Somerset County.
In addition, he also wishes to thank the countless coaches, players and assistant coaches who have all made a positive impact on his life, including longtime assistant Jerry Donaldson. Miller is currently heavily involved in Meyersdale’s youth baseball and football programs and enjoys teaching and coaching his own children and teammates. He and his wife, Ashley, are the proud parents of Ashton and Everly.
Richard A. (Dick) Semower
Dick Sembower was born in Somerset on September 17, 1948, the son of the late Ray T. Sembower and Mr. Louise (Spangler) Sembower.
He married Brenda Jenks in April 1971 and has two children: Mark Sembower and his wife, Cara, and Julie Arseneault and her husband, Jamie. He also has four grandchildren, Annabeth, Desmond, Millie and Alexander.
Sembower has served the Northwestern Pennsylvania baseball community for over 35 years, spanning over 60 combined seasons including spring, summer and fall.
Sembower’s baseball career began at a young age and has continued to this day. He started his baseball career in the summer recreation program run by coach Carl Waugaman on the field at Somerset High School.
In 1958, when Little League Baseball started in Somerset, he played for the Eagles and then progressed into the Senior League program. His playing career ended around this time as Somerset Area High School did not have a baseball program.
After graduating from Somerset, Sembower obtained his Associate in Business Administration at Robert Morris Junior College in 1969, then completed his Bachelor of Business Administration at Robert Morris College in 1970.
After graduation, Sembower worked for three years at CS McKee & Co. in Pittsburgh before finding his job for the next 36 years at Jenks Motor Sales in West Springfield. Sembower oversaw all accounting needs as well as purchasing. West Springfield and the surrounding communities immediately began to reap the benefits of Sembower’s willingness to serve the community and the youth.
In 1988, Semower began coaching and supervising teams in the Northwestern Little League area. In addition to coaching various Little League teams, he also served the community as President of the Little League Northwest for six years. It was from this early start that the desire to expand baseball in the region began.
Sembower was instrumental in starting the Erie County Fall Ball League as well as the club’s baseball program for Erie County middle school players. One of his most beloved accomplishments is the implementation of Legion junior baseball in the Northwestern Pennsylvania League.
Sembower coached his local Junior Legion team from 1997-2000, then was instrumental in creating the Albion Post 567 Legion senior team in 2001. He is currently a manager and coach at this level.
From 2011 to 2018, the Albion team reached the Region 8 tournament every year. They have been finalists twice and have won the regional tournament three years in a row. Albion Post 567 has represented Region 8 for those 3 years (2014-2016) in the PA State American Legion Tournament.
On July 27, 2018, Sembower was inducted into the American Legion Sports Hall of Fame in Pennsylvania for his dedication and service to youth baseball as well as for his service to his community. Sembower is currently serving his sixth consecutive term as president of the Erie County American Legion Baseball League. For the past three years, Sembower has served as Area 8 Chapter Director for Erie and Crawford Counties. The Northwestern Wildcats have had Sembower on the school diamond as an assistant coach for the past 25 years.
His accomplishments outside of baseball shine like diamond lights. Sembower has been active in his church as a member of the board of trustees as well as chairman of the finance and audit committees, sang in the choir and also served briefly as director of douth. He previously served as president of the Conneaut Area Chamber of Commerce and the Exchange Club of Conneaut, Ohio.
Sembower is also a board member and treasurer of All God’s Children Ministries, which serves Erie and Crawford counties as well as local and international communities. In addition, he has been a member of the board of directors of the Northwestern Community Youth Center for 12 years.
Sembower has been heavily involved in the Coach Lisek Summer Park program, as well as previously working with the Soap Box Derby in Conneaut, Ohio and the YMCA Indian Guides of Ashtabula, Ohio. Sembower has dedicated 20 years of service to the North West School District Board of Directors, serving as board chair seven times.
There are those who love baseball because it creates a lot of joy for people and memories for those who play, watch, coach and follow it. It’s a family. And almost anyone can relate to the game because you don’t have to be a certain height to play.
The words above refer to Ryan Fish. From teammates, coaches, opposing players and Somerset County baseball fans, they remember Fish’s throw for Forbes High School.
He was a small pitcher who managed to pitch every game except one for an undefeated high school baseball team in the spring of 1962. He had family, friends and was having fun. Fish was selected that summer by the Cincinnati Reds and assigned to a Minor League franchise.
Although he didn’t reach the Major League, he was considered one of the toughest pound-for-pound pitchers to ever play in Somerset County.