After year's absence, Dover set to return to Central League for 2018 baseball season

  • Dover, a traditional program in the Central League, did not field a team in 2017.
  • Dover will field a Central League team in 2018, headed by longtime Dover standout Kelly Raber.
  • The Dover team will be managed by Mark Shimmel.

The consensus around the Central League last season was simple: It was a shame that Dover would not be part of the circuit.

Kelly Raber, top, seen here during his playing days for Dover, is expected to head the new Dover baseball program in the Central League in 2018. Dover did not field a Central League team in 2017. YORK DISPATCH FILE PHOTO

With a rich history, that includes nine regular-season league championships, Dover was long a perennial contender. The thought of the league without Dover left many confused and upset.

Management and player issues, among a other problems, ultimately forced Dover to fold its squad before the 2017 season.

Many around the league, including president Mark Skehan, looked forward to Dover’s return — hopefully sooner than later. Those wishes became a reality recently when Dover applied for reinstatement for the 2018 season.

Headed by former Dover great Kelly Raber, the team that plays its home games at the Dover Intermediate School will become the ninth team in the Central League.

“Dover is back in,” Skehan confirmed this week. “They are pretty well organized, but it is a little bit of a different construct from years past. Kelly will kind of be more behind the scenes, while Mark Shimmel will be the team’s field manager. And there’s a guy, Mark Smith, who is going to be the business manager. Kelly is going to be the general manager, if you want to put it into professional terms.”

Roster speculation: Rosters are not due into the league until the first week of May so Skehan only had a general idea of the makeup of the squad. Raber’s son Trent graduated from Red Land High School in 2016, which led to speculation that a number of players from that area will be on the roster.

“I haven’t seen a final roster so I don’t know what the final makeup will be,” Skehan said. “But I know that Kelly mentioned to me that he will likely have a number of young kids from around the Red Land area, but I also know that some of the former Dover players are going to be coming back."

Former Dover players could return: Several former Dover stars were standouts with new squads a season ago. That list included guys such as Ross Drawbaugh (Jefferson) and Austin Rickrode (Stoverstown). Drawbaugh hit .392 with three home runs and 22 RBIs for the Titans last season, while Rickrode hit .374 with four homers and 28 RBIs for the Tigers.

While the league normally has players signed for two-year contracts, any former Dover player from the 2016 squad is free to rejoin the Dover organization this season if they so choose. Skehan, however, is not sure if either Rickrode or Drawbaugh will stay where they are or return to Dover.

“I don’t know of anyone specifically,” Skehan said. “I’ve heard rumors, but until I see the names on a final roster it’s just speculation.”

Byes built into schedule: Dover’s inclusion in the league will allow for a 32-game regular-season schedule in which each team faces the rest of the league teams four times. That will afford the league the luxury of giving teams a bye several times during the summer.

Stoverstown is the defending regular-season league champion after a 25-10-0 season. Manchester and Jefferson, which won the league playoff title, finished in a tie for second with 24-10-1 records.

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