Shawn Hedrick was just 16 when he began competing against adults in the Central League.
"I just started driving that year, and I played high school ball, Legion ball and Central League ball," Hedrick said.
After a brilliant pitching career, during which he won 116 regular-season games in the Central League and "close to 100" in the Susquehanna League, Hedrick decided that the 2015 season would be his last one on the sandlots.
"Physically, I was OK, but I don't throw as hard as I used to" said Hedrick, whose fastball at one time was clocked at 92 mph. "Plus, I turned 40 this year, and I decided to do it (retire)."
Hedrick isn't planning to be on the mound next spring, but he isn't done pitching this year. He'll be the starter for Hallam when the Express goes up against Delco on Saturday in the opening round of the Tom Kerrigan Memorial Tournament. The game is set for 10 a.m. on the Shiloh diamond. The Kerrigan event, formerly known as the Colonial York Tournament, features 18 teams from four states. The tournament is in its 51st season.
"The Colonial is what you play for," Hedrick said. "When I found out that I was pitching on Saturday, I was kind of emotional at the beginning, but I'm over it now."
In his last outing with Hallam on Aug. 9, Hedrick, pitching on just two days rest, allowed only one run (it was unearned) in four innings of relief against East Prospect. The right-hander struck out three and walked one.
East Prospect manager Mark Toomey said following the game that "Shawn Hedrick is so good. I'm so glad we didn't see him any longer today."
Hedrick, as he's done throughout his career, pounded the strike zone that day.
"There can be something bad about always being around the strike zone because hitters can settle in against you, but you don't want to walk guys," Hedrick said. "It seemed like every time I walked a guy, he scored."
Hedrick learned the basics of pitching from his father, Bob, a former Central League pitcher.
"I picked up other things later on from watching pro ball and watching other guys work," he said.
Hedrick relied on a fastball and a slider early in his career before adding a change-up to the repertoire. He pitched for championship teams at Dover, Red Lion and Hallam.
"Those teams had a lot of veterans with younger guys mixed in. That's how you win championships," he said. "Plus, I had really good catchers, and the defense was solid. If there was a ground ball or a popup, you knew the play was going to be made."
Hedrick also had the opportunity to pitch for the York Revolution in 2009.
"That was awesome getting to pitch for the Revs in the stadium," he said. "The guys (teammates) were great. I wasn't sure how they were going to react with this guy from York walking in and pitching."
Hallam manager Terry Golden admired Hedrick's demeanor on the mound.
"He was mentally strong and never let anything affect him," Golden said. "His constant strength was that he could throw all his pitches for strikes. In my opinion, he's the premier pitcher of his generation."
Glen Rock goes for grand slam: Glen Rock, meanwhile, is bidding to complete a sweep of sandlot honors.
If "The Rock" wins the Kerrigan event, it will achieve the grand slam after having previously captured Central League regular-season and playoff honors, along with winning the York County Championship Series.
Glen Rock manager Marty Heyne, who's in his third season at the helm, said he and the players had a feeling, long before opening day, that 2015 could be a special season.
"We put this team together in January, and when 21 guys showed up at my house on a Saturday night in January, I knew we were ready," Heyne said.
"The Rock" features a solid core of 20-something players to go with veterans Rick Goebeler, Dan Rhodes, Matt Gonzalez and Brad McCullough.
"This team has really good camaraderie, and so many players have contributed this year," Heyne said. "We finished strong last year. We won three games in the (Kerrigan) tournament and made it to Sunday."
"The Rock" will aim to still be around on Monday (the tournament's closing day) this year.
McCullough is scheduled to pitch the opening game on Saturday. Glen Rock will be at home for a 1 p.m. contest against the Cly Mudcats.
"The Rock" last won the Kerrigan title in 2008.
Hallam and Glen Rock are two of six York County teams in the Kerrigan event.
The others are Mount Wolf, Jacobus, Conrads and Cly. Jacobus took the Susquehanna League regular-season title, while Conrads captured the Susquehanna playoff crown.
— Reach Dick VanO'Linda at firstname.lastname@example.org.