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Bob Ross Classic set for Saturday

When it comes to being a head coach in the Bob Ross Classic, Fairmont High School baseball coach Kent Drake has a simple philosophy.

“We tell the players they all have skills we don’t know about,” said Drake, who coach the Blue team. “Go out there and showcase what you can do.”

Forty-six of the top incoming seniors have been divided into two teams — Red and Blue — for the 14th annual game, which is set for 7 p.m. Saturday at Fifth Third Field, the home of the Dayton Dragons. Admission is free and the gates will open at 6 p.m.

“This is a big summer for them, the summer between their junior and senior year,” said Middletown and Red team coach Rick Blyberg. “This is a great opportunity for the kids to play on a minor league field in front of their family, friends and college coaches. It is a cool environment.”

College coaches, and fans, will have a lot of talent to watch.

Blyberg’s Red squad will be led by Greenville second baseman Connor Nealeigh and Butler pitcher Jacob Larger. Nealeigh led the Greater Western Ohio Conference with a .620 average while Larger was 6-2 with a 1.83 ERA.

Tri County North’s Hunter Gleadell and Carlisle’s Josh Tarter lead Drake’s blue team. Gleadell, a pitcher and first baseman, hit .460 with six home runs and 27 RBIs while Tarter allowed just two runs in 21.2 innings (0.65 ERA).

Following batting practice, the Dragons will host a Little League clinic on the field beginning at 5:30. The high school players and coaches will conduct the clinic.

“It is a great experience for the kids,” Drake said. “For some, it is their first opportunity to give back. They have been blessed with skills and now they have the opportunity to give back to younger players. Who knows, there may be some future players in the game at the clinic.”

Because of the game rules, Blyberg and Drake will both be staring across the field at a player from their own team. Andrew Burton of Middletown will play for Drake and Fairmont’s Andrew Honious will be on Blyberg’s squad.

While each head coach wants to see their player do well, Drake said that might change in the ninth inning.

“You want to see them do well, but don’t fool yourself,” he said. “If he comes up in the ninth inning, I am going to give my pitcher every clue I can to get him out. You don’t want that (a loss) over your head for a whole year.”

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