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Down Memory Lane

The Following was a news story from The Daily Record on June 24, 2015.  The story with pictures can be found here: http://www.the-daily-record.com/local%20sports/2015/06/24/shreve-to-recognize-famous-hot-stove-team

If anyone has any questions, or if you are a former member looking to be part of the reunion, please email shrevehotstove@yahoo.com and we will get you connected.

Shreve to recognize famous Hot Stove team

By JONATHAN SCHOLLES Staff Writer Published:

SHREVE -- After 40 years, Shreve is recognizing the youth baseball team that helped its hometown garner national headlines.

From 1971-75, the Shreve Hitchcock Excavating 17-under youth baseball team amassed a lofty 81-10 record, winning a national title in 1972, state championships in 1972 and 1973, as well as league trophies each of its five years. The team was a national semifinalist in 1973.

Based on this success, the Shreve Business and Community Association will commemorate the team and its members during the village's annual Homecoming July 11.

"The thing that made this team successful was their athleticism and dedication ... they would practice 24 hours a day if you'd let them," said Marv Kister, head coach of the Hitchcock Excavating team.

"They were positive and there was no challenge they were not willing to take. They really pursued their goal of winning as many games as they could," he added.

Formed in 1971 to give athletes a chance to play during the summer once their Little League careers were over, the Hitchcock Excavating team, sponsored by Ken Hitchcock, was a blending of little league squads from Shreve and Wooster.

Despite not previously playing together, the team quickly jelled, losing just two games in its first season.

"We were fortunate enough to have a talented group of young men who had their minds in the right places and had great attitudes," said Steve Thompson, 57, a first baseman and right-handed pitcher with the team.

"We were willing to work at it and it all just jelled together," added Thompson, who is a bailiff and retired state trooper.

From the first time they took the field, seemingly, Hitchcock Excavating displayed the perfect combination for success: athleticism, dedication and coaching.

Prior to joining Hitchcock Excavating, Kister coached the Shreve Yankees, building a dynasty and guiding the 12-under team to a third place finish in the state by the time he was 20.

"When we first started, the state tournament, the national tournament, none of that was brought up," said Kister, 68, who would win nearly 90 percent of his games with the Shreve Yankees and Hitchcock Excavating.

"You have no idea what will happen along the way," he added. "But as the year went on, we kept getting better and better. And pretty soon, we're beating everybody. Next thing you know, we're the state runner-up our first year. After that, we ended up always playing in the state final or national tournament."

The team was led by a core contingent of Triway High School sophomores, who helped the Titans finish as a state runner-up in 1974. And losing just 10 games in five years, Hitchcock Excavating developed a stout pitching rotation, including Kenny Flinner, as well as Wayne County Sports Hall of Famers Keith Snoddy and Wayne Hitchcock.

"We played a lot," said Snoddy, a quarterback at Triway who then starred at that position collegiately at Youngstown State, leading the Penguins to national runner-up honors in 1979.

"We practiced every day ... even when we didn't have a game," he added. "We worked at it, and Marv taught us the right way to do things. We all loved playing, so it wasn't hard to get us there. It was just a matter of us being allowed to go, and we always were ... our parents bought into it."

In 1972, Hitchcock Excavating ascended to the top, winning its national championship. Shreve cruised past Michigan, 6-0, before edging Baltimore, 1-0, in the title game.

"We had the talent, the attitudes and the coaching," said Thompson, who played shortstop at The University of Akron.

Following the win, two West Holmes High School players joined the team, adding more star power and depth. One of those players was Joe Norman, an Indiana University Hall of Famer as a linebacker who went on to play in the NFL with Seattle.

At 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, Norman was daunting to opposing pitchers. On the field, he made his presence felt right away.

During the 1973 National Final Four against Baltimore, Norman launched a two-run home run 380 feet, erasing a 1-0 deficit in the top of the seventh to pull his team ahead, although Baltimore rallied, eventually upending Hitchcock Excavating 3-2 and exacting its revenge from the previous year.

"That was exciting, because we had to come from behind to take the lead," said Norman, 58, reliving his home run. "Unfortunately, we couldn't hold the lead in the final innings, but it was a great run."

In the team's final year, Hitchcock Excavating had a shot at another state title. The team, though, made a collective decision to step away, declining to play the championship game and ending its legacy.

"We had won nationals and the state tournament a couple times," said Kister, now a teacher at Wooster Christian School. "If there would have been something else, American Legion ball, something in which we would have been a little more challenged, I think they would have been a little more inclined to participate. It's not that we were being arrogant or thought we were better than others, we just wanted a new challenge.

"They were getting offers from colleges, and the colleges were saying 'We want you to come out to our summer camp,'" Kister added. "They were concerned about their future, their education. And they weren't going to get that playing hot stove baseball."

Essentially, from the coaching staff to its players, Norman said, Hitchcock Excavating was a group of individuals who were exceedingly good at winning.

"We had a strong core of winners," said Norman, who now owns his own construction company, Joe Norman Construction.

"We hated losing, and that was key. It drove us. We knew we were talented, but some nights you don't have your 'A' game and you have to find a way to win."

Snoddy, 57, an acclaimed basketball coach in his own right who led the Titans to a pair of Div. II state runner-up nods, credited Kister for instilling the fundamentals while promoting the drive and hunger to win.

Examining how he related to his own teams, Snoddy added that he sees some of Kister's coaching influences.

"I'm not a yeller or screamer ... I motivate kids from a positive standpoint, like an encourager. And that's exactly how Marv was," said Snoddy, who oversees his family farm and is part-owner at Blaine Carmichael Sports, an athletic retailer.

"He would let us have our fun to a point. And then he would give us a look. And you knew it was time to get down to business.

"I hoped the kids enjoyed playing for me, and not out of fear. That's the last thing I wanted," he added. "And Marv showed me that there are other ways to get my point across."

Thompson agreed, adding, "The guys think the world of (Kister). He's one of the best coaches we ever had."

The team is planning a reunion prior to being honored July 11 at Shreve Homecoming.

"As an association, we want to acknowledge their endeavors and bring them back to Shreve," said Linda Repp, President of the Shreve Business and Community Association.

"We want to get them back together and bring them back to Shreve," she added. " There are so many fond memories."

Reporter Jonathan Scholles can be reached at 330-287-1632 or jscholles@the-daily-record.com. He is @jonschollesTDR on Twitter.