North Allegheny AD Bozzuto pitches regular season baseball tournaments in PIAA board debut

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Saturday, August 7, 2021 | 10:01 AM


High school baseball players can play dozens and dozens of AAU games each summer, at times more than one per day and often multiple days in a row.

That makes North Allegheny athletic director Bob Bozzuto ask: Why are varsity baseball teams in Pennsylvania limited to 20 games? He’s long advocated for adding games to the regular-season schedule, but now he has a seat on the PIAA board, so he’s advocating for that idea with the administrators able to make a change.

“Baseball is a game you need to continue to play to get better,” Bozzuto said. “Batting practice isn’t going to cut it. When I was with the Wild Things, we talked about having 5 o’clock hitters. That’s batting practice. Five o’clock hitters don’t make it.”

Bozzuto, with support from the PIAA baseball steering committee, has proposed adding regular-season tournaments to the baseball schedule, an idea they borrowed from PIAA wrestling and volleyball. He’d support an expanded softball schedule too, as a way to entice teams to develop pitching depth.

Here’s the idea: Teams could play up to six games over a three-day period, yet those six contests would count as only two games against the 20-game limit. Essentially, teams could get four games for free. In an ideal scenario, Bozzuto said, teams would be allowed to play two tournaments a year, meaning eight additional games.

“If you ask baseball coaches, they don’t want to practice in May,” he said. “They’d rather play.”

The events could bring together teams from districts outside the WPIAL, said Bozzuto, who envisioned inviting Cumberland Valley, LaSalle College and Spring-Ford to North Allegheny.

“What a tournament that would be,” he said.

Bozzuto made his pitch for more games when the PIAA board met in July at State College. It was the first PIAA meeting since he became president of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Directors Association, an organization that holds a seat on the PIAA board.

The board didn’t adopt the proposal but might consider it sometime later, PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said. Lombardi said the idea should be part of a larger effort to re-evaluate the contest limit on all sports.

“The board felt, let’s take this as a more global look,” Lombardi said. “Since we’re in the second year of a (realignment) cycle, keep the status quo. But when our sport-specific steering committees meet this fall, winter and spring, we’re going to put ‘number of games’ on the agenda for each of them, and discuss by sport whether we’re meeting the proper number of games.”

Not everyone favors an expanded baseball schedule. Lombardi said there were concerns on the board about increasing the number of games when many teams already don’t reach the 20-game limit for varying reasons. Would that create a competitive imbalance?

“There is a concern of competitive advantage, especially with teams going south,” Lombardi said. “Not all schools have the wherewithal to do that. If they have the ability to start the season with 12 games in the second week and the other team hasn’t even had a scrimmage because of weather, that’s a concern.”

There also are concerns about added cost for umpires, travel and game management.

“I get that,” Bozzuto said. “There are some districts that cannot do it. But then they say there’s a disadvantage. No one’s saying that in wrestling.”

In drafting the baseball proposal, Bozzuto borrowed ideas from wrestling, where the number of contest dates on the schedule has declined, but the number of matches an athlete wrestles has increased. Bozzuto credits PIAA wrestling committee chairman Frank Vulcano, athletic director at Canon-McMillan, for the creative approach.

“It used to take a long time to get to 100 wins,” Bozzuto said. “It no longer takes that today because of the duals that go on and how it is measured. Take a look at volleyball and pool play. The idea is to get kids to play.”

Bozzuto said North Allegheny has changed the way it schedules volleyball games.

“Rather than them having two dual matches, we can have a tournament where they can play all day and it still only counts as two competitions,” he said.

Bozzuto is a longtime member of the WPIAL and PIAA baseball committees, so he’s been a respected voice in the sport for years. But as president of PSADA, he’ll now be involved more directly in the decision making, a role he admits he relishes.

“I like to be able to speak up and help out based on the experiences I’ve had over my tenure as a coach, AD and teacher,” Bozzuto said. “As president of the state association, my job is to give back to this profession. I love this profession. I think it’s the best job in the world.

“I respect everyone around that (PIAA) table. I absolutely loved the experience. I was a kid in a candy store.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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