Each day in the early season, straggling players arrived half-dressed in their uniforms to support Middletown’s American Legion Post 25 baseball squad, the Firehawks. Often in flip flops and rarely in cleats, they hustle out of their cars to the field, don the jersey and warm up the best they can.



 


   Each day in the early season, straggling players arrived half-dressed in their uniforms to support Middletown’s American Legion Post 25 baseball squad, the Firehawks. Often in flip flops and rarely in cleats, they hustle out of their cars to the field, don the jersey and warm up the best they can.

   At this stage of their careers, baseball is just part of a busy life that likely includes job commitments that will help pay for school or the monthly bills. Players typically range from about to enter their final year of high school in the fall to having just completed freshman year of college, and living the young adult life is reality.

   Post 25 manager Steve Samluk is happy to deal with the situation, and figures good things are ahead once this summer’s group finally settles in. They’ve responded to all practice requests, seem to genuinely like each other and began with four straight wins.

   “We were very close to having a full team together (on June 21, an 8-3 victory over Newark Post 10) and it was very impressive,” said Samluk, who took over when previous manager Bill Alexander relocated.

   “Our full lineup will become very consistent after the fourth of July or so. After that we start to play almost every night and can really develop some consistency.”

   Drawing some of the top talent from its baseball-rich Middletown, Odessa, Townsend and Bear boundaries, Post 25 still managed to fill nine spots nightly with strong players who pretty much have the game figured out by now.

   After playing dozens of innings against each other on the high school circuit, including facing off for state titles, time arrives to play together. Home games are played at Middletown High.

   Among the early standouts were Conner Ashbee, a shortstop and pitcher who hit one of his team’s six home runs through the first few weeks. He works for a home building and remodeling company to help pay tuition for his Salem (N.J.) Community College education before hitting the field.

   “I’ve always grown up playing sports, and my granddad got me involved with playing baseball,” said Ashbee, a Hodgson Vo-Tech product who hails from Middletown. “For me, there’s nothing like it in the world. When you’re out on the field all the worries and concerns you might have go away for at least awhile.”

   Alex Zwier, who swung a big stick for Caravel Academy’s recent high school state champion, tagged two more homers while manning the outfield. Second baseman-outfielder Stan Zulkowski (a recent St. Georges Tech graduate) hit a homer, along with Wilmington University’s Frank Samluk and returning Salisbury University/Middletown graduate catcher Julius Ryland.

   “Those guys have filled some key roles, but everyone who played made a contribution at one point or another,” Samluk said.

   Temple University-bound pitchers Pat and Eric Peterson of Bear and Charter School of Wilmington joined the lineup after a few games, and immediately provided results on the mound and with the bat. Hurling his first game, Pat Peterson combined with rising Appoquinimink High senior Rob Margis to earn an 8-3 win over Newark Post 10 on June 21.

   Zwier led the offense with three hits, including a home run in the second inning. Zulkowski went 2-for-3 with two doubles and two runs scored. Eric Peterson went 2-for-4 with a double and two runs, while St. Georges Tech product Jared Turner had a double and run.