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Kayaking is the way to go

kayakWEBThe author's kayak fully equipped and ready to go.


It’s the time and it’s among us now. Some of the best smallmouth bass fishing of the year is at our doorstep. 

The Susquehanna River has been known as a smallmouth “jewel,” known throughout the country, as a topnotch fishery. However, its status has been declared “distressed” to say the least. 

In past years, many anglers including myself felt that the banner years of smallmouth fishing were behind us, never to rebound. I was wrong. For the last three years my catches have improved. 

This year showed marked improvement. Bass have been caught in a variety of sizes from very small “dinks” to medium and lunker categories. It is a welcome relief and shows that successful spawning has been achieved. Trying to explain what happened and why to the bass population is a complex interaction of much natural and human interference upon an ecosystem. Let’s all hope it continues in the positive.

Surface action, around evening, is my preferred method of targeting bass. Hooking a feisty, energetic and aerial aerobatic competitor on light spinning tackle is the ultimate thrill. Casting a Rebel Pop-R and retrieving it with jerks and stops. Then out of nowhere a massive explosion occurs that sounds like a rock being thrown into the water is surface fishing at its best. 

The fishing is excellent. But the present conditions of the river make boating difficult. A river hovering around the 3-foot mark is a low river, especially where I fish. Many places are inaccessible due to rock shelves, pipelines and rock bars. The next time you travel over the Susquehanna River, look at the river and its condition. It looks like a rock maze. 

I have a difficult time launching my boat, not to mention navigating it with my Mercury 40HP Jet and 15-foot boat. So I went to Plan “B” — my kayak.

This 10-foot kayak has given me new opportunities and adventure with rod and reel. Mine is an average-priced kayak that falls under the fishing category. Its bottom is somewhat keeled and flat, making it stable. It did have the normal storage compartments and rod holders, but several additions have been made to it. More rope cleats on either side allow me to snap on tools such as pliers, forceps, and line clippers. “Bungee cords” stretched from cleats firmly secure anything I want to carry on, such as additional rods that don’t fit the traditional vertical rod holders. 

Lighting is required for night fishing, so I rigged up a system using a plastic liter soda bottle. I cut the bottle completely off about 4 inches from the bottom resulting in a cup like container. I attached it to the lid of my small cooler behind my seat. It makes a perfect base for my lantern. 

I have one single paddle in addition to my regular kayak paddle that I use to move around on short quiet strategic moves when fish are really spooky. An anchor rounds out my unit. It’s the imagination of the kayak owner on what can be bought and adapted to make it a fishing machine

On my recent trip on the Susquehanna River, I experienced as close as you can get to a Nantucket whale sleigh-ride. I had some really lunker bass around the 18-inch mark pull my kayak around. Their strength and fighting ability gave me a Susquehanna River sleigh ride!

Kayak fishing allows you to get close and personal to the wonders of the Susquehanna. You see things that you can’t from a moving motorized boat — the fish, the river structure, the abundant wildlife such as deer, mink and beaver. Not to forget that bald eagles and ospreys are easily observed by the stealth and quietness of the kayak.

Kayaking did open a new chapter for me. It is fun and enjoyable. Before kayaking, take the necessary safety precautions and obey all Pennsylvania Fish and Boat regulations pertaining to their use. Good luck.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 August 2016 11:41

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Rugby to give park a boost?

New fields and other improvements — totaling in the hundreds of thousands of dollars — are in store for Sunset Park under an agreement approved Aug. 1 by Londonderry Township supervisors.

Harrisburg Rugby Football Club is “making about $350,000 in improvements to the park in exchange for a 50-year lease,” said Steve Letavic, Londonderry Township manager. “I think it will take two to three years to have fields ready to be used.”

Sunset Park will be the club’s first permanent home since its founding in 1969.

The club has nine teams, including the HRFC Men, HRFC Women (the “Harlots”), Harrisburg Old Boys Occasional Side (“Hobos,” an over 35 team) and four under-19 teams West Shore United Girls, Cumberland Valley Girls, West Shore United Boys, Upper Dauphin County Boys, Upper Dauphin County Girls, and Harrisburg Cougar Boys. The men’s and women’s teams use Memorial Field in Highspire for practice.

The Sun newspaper of Hummelstown reported that the club will lease 8.5 acres of land on Sunset Drive near the golf course for $1 a year for 50 years, and in return will build and maintain the fields.

Other community youth sports can use the fields when the club is not playing.

Adi Horrell, the women’s coach, declined to comment on the agreement with Londonderry and said a news release was pending.

Club members voted on the plan July 24, according to its Facebook page.

Its website said the club has set aside money over the years for the purchase of land but it also is looking for funds through a GoFundMe campaign.

According to the club’s website, its annual general meeting is scheduled for 1 to 3 p.m. Aug. 21 at Sunset Golf Course, adjacent to the park.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 August 2016 11:35

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Twilight baseball team falls in playoffs: Hummelstown tops Middletown in three-game series to advance

Adrian HuberPhoto by Gabe Mink, for the Press And Journal -- Adrian Huber is both a player and the manager for the Middletown team. He is seen here swinging vs. Linglestown on July 20.

The season of the Middletown baseball team in the East Shore Twilight League came to a close Friday when the squad lost in the playoffs, 13-2 to Hummelstown on the road.

In the best-of-three semifinal series, the home team won each game, with Hummelstown winning a tight 3-2 decision Wednesday, July 27 before Friday’s victory. Middletown won the middle game on Thursday, July 28, 5-3.

Middletown team manager Adrian Huber said the deciding game got away from them in the fourth inning, when Hummelstown had three hits that “weren’t hit hard, they were just placed right.” That led to four runs off starter Tyler Johnston.

Hummelstown scored four more runs with the help of three Middletown errors after Johnston was replaced, for a total of eight runs in the fourth, putting the game away.
Middletown scored first in the top of the first inning, but Hummelstown answered with two of their own in the bottom of the first before the fourth-inning explosion.

Middletown won at home Thursday, with Zach Sims going the distance.

“He got into a couple of jams early in the game but battled out,” Huber said. “We got down 2-0, but nobody got down. It wasn’t one of those things where we thought the season was over.”

Sims threw about 110 pitches.

“I got up to get my arm loose, but he said, ‘I got this,’” Huber said.

The first game at Hummelstown was a tough loss. The home team scored in the bottom of the seventh for the 3-2 win.

“Zach Whitman threw a great game, but their starter threw really well. I don’t think there was a walk in the entire game,” Huber said, which is unusual for a game in the league.
What it came down to, he said, was “they executed and we didn’t.”

The team finished the regular season with a 13-11 record for 26 points, third place in the seven-team league. Hummelstown also finished with 26 points.

Huber said the team isn’t far from winning the league again, despite a “huge dynamics change” on the team in the last three or four years.

He said the team went from many players in their upper 20s to mid-30s to mostly 20- to 25-year-olds.

“I don’t know exactly what it will look like next year, but I expect a lot of the same faces,” he said, predicting about 80 percent of the team will be back.

“A little bit of toughness, a little bit of commitment, and we’re right there with anyone,” he added.

The team won the regular season and playoff titles in 2010 and the regular season crown in 2011.

He said this year’s team didn’t have many run producers, but Ryan Trafecanty “really helped us drive in runs” batting from the fifth or sixth position. He was probably in the top three for batting average on the team.

Dillon Hippensteel got on base a lot, Huber said.

“He worked counts. He always made the pitcher work,” he said.

Whitman threw great, “but he just didn’t hit for him down the stretch.” Sims, who was a freshman at Shippensburg University, had meniscus surgery in May. They were the team’s two best pitchers.

Also, Brandon Popp hit the ball really well to start the year, he said.

Huber and Arturo Figueroa were steady in the three and four spots in the batting order for most of the year.

Big newcomers this year were Sims and outfielder Marcus Gray, Huber said.

Correct roster

Incorrect roster information appeared in last week’s Press And Journal. Here is the list of players on the 2016 team:
Adrian Huber, Brandon Popp, Ryan Popp, Chuck Kline, Zach Whitman, Ryan Trafecanty, Tyler Auerback, Cory Auerback, Arturo Figueroa, Tito Figueroa, Dillon Hippensteel, Greg Pickel, Steve Pickel, Ethan Kell, Lou Hile, Tyler Johnston, Zach Sims, Matt Sanders, Marcus Gray, Michael Basti, Tyler Heckard, Andrew Clark, Max Salov and A.J. Salov. Coaches were Adrian Huber, Frank Popp, Dick Huber and Greg Pickel.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 August 2016 09:25

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For the love of the game: Older Twilight League players have to balance work, family with baseball

figueroaPhotos by Gabe Mink -- Arturo Figueroa swings at a pitch Wednesday, July 20 vs. Linglestown at the high school field. He is the oldest player on the Middletown team at age 41. His 17-year-old son is also on the squad.

By Gabe Mink
For the Press And Journal

At a time when people will follow their phones to catch the latest fad, there are still places where people pursue things that have stood the test of time — things like the game of baseball.

The East Shore Twilight League offers this opportunity to players to pursue their passion.
These players’ dedication to the game and to their team does not come from the promise of a paycheck. It comes from a lifelong passion for the game of baseball, a passion that every player holds, no matter their age, background or family life.  

According to Adrian Huber, who has been the Middletown team manager for eight years, the ages of the players on the team can vary.

“There are four (players) that are freshman in college. One or two are seniors in college. The majority of the team is just out of college. Then there’s three or four of us that are 30, 33. One of them is 41” he said.

The 41-year-old player is Arturo Figueroa, who is the oldest player on the team. Figueroa had a career as a semi-pro baseball player in Puerto Rico and Germany in the early 1990s before his journeys brought him here to Middletown.

His son, Tito, who is 17, is one of the youngest players on the team. He was invited by his brother in Steelton to come up from Orlando.

“In Orlando, there was nothing like the Twilight League,” he said. “I fell in love with this league and said ‘I gotta move.’”

“It took two or three months and I was already here.”

Figueroa said that he’s been extremely fortunate that his employers in the past have been willing to help him so his work schedule doesn’t conflict with his love of baseball. He says when he switched jobs from Harrisburg to Allentown, “one of my conversations was when the season starts I have to leave early, because I play baseball.” Figueroa said.

And that’s how he views himself.

“This is who I am. I am a worker, and a father. But when I see myself, I am a baseball player” he said.

For Huber, that passion started as a child.

“I grew up playing baseball my entire life. I helped coach baseball for my nephew, and baseball has just been in my blood.” Huber said.

But Huber recognizes that carrying that passion from childhood into adulthood “takes a lot of commitment to want to come play a baseball game then go into work” he said. And no one on the team recognizes that more than Zach Whitman. Whitman1Middletown pitcher Zach Whitman fires a pitch Wednesday, July 20, vs. Linglestown as Ryan Trafecanty prepares to catch it at the high school field in Middletown.

Whitman, 28, is the Middletown teams “ace” pitcher. He’s been working the nightshift for FedEx for the past five years.

“You do what you have to do to pay the bills,” he said.

Whitman started playing baseball at a young age. “Pretty much since I was able to walk, I’ve been throwing a ball” he said.

He began in the Middletown youth league and played all the way into college.

“It was always a dream to make it to the Major Leagues like every baseball player.” he said.
He landed a baseball scholarship to Georgia Southwestern State University. He started in the Twilight League in 2005 as a junior in high school.  

Whitman agreed that being an older player in the league offers a different perspective and the opportunity to teach.

“I love baseball,” Whitman said. “That’s why I keep playing it. Teaching the younger guys things that they think they know, it’s nice when you’re a little bit older because the players actually take it in and they seem like they listen to you” he said.

And spreading his knowledge and passion for the game is what brings him back each season.

“I’ll play till my arm falls off. That’s just how I am,” he said.

One of the youngest players on the team, Zach Sims, 19, has started three games as a pitcher this season. He had been playing baseball for Shippensburg University until an injury forced him off the mound midway through the season.

“I tore my meniscus and ended up having to stay home for the summer,” Sims said. “I had to get surgery in May, and ended up playing twilight.”

This has been his first year playing for the league and he has found that it’s a different level of competition on the field.

“A lot of them [the players] do have families, they work full time. For them to take three hours out of their day to go to the field to play baseball, it’s a different type of passion for the game.” Sims said. “It’s relatable because I’ve always loved the game the way those guys do. The twilight team is there to win and I love that attitude and that mindset.”

The East Shore Twilight League was founded as a nonprofit baseball league in 1975. The league is made up of seven teams from the surrounding municipalities: Hummelstown, Lawnton, Linglestown, Middletown, McAlisterville, Penbrook and Perry County. The league has to come up with their own funds to finance the teams throughout the season.

League play opens in mid-May and concludes with four-team playoffs beginning the last week of July.  

“We  are not sponsored by the town or the school itself. We are funded by the individuals on the team and then by going out and getting sponsorships from businesses in the area.” Huber said. “On top of that we do all kinds of different fundraisers, from March Madness pools to college bowl pools.”

Marcus GrayMarcus Gray pops one up.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 July 2016 15:49

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Middletown makes playoffs, starts tonight

The Middletown team made the East Shore Twilight League playoffs and will play its first game at 5:45 p.m. today, July 27, in Hummelstown.

The team finished with a 13-11 record for 26 points, third place in the seven-team league. Hummelstown also finished with 26 points.

Middletown lost its next-to-last game on Wednesday, July 20. Visiting Linglestown, the top team in the league with 35 points, won 6-5. But Thursday, the team traveled to Lawnton and registered a 5-0 shutout victory.

The semifinals are a best-of-three. Middletown hosts the second game at 5:45 p.m. Thursday, July 28. If needed, a third game will be played at 5:45 p.m. Friday at Hummelstown.

The finals are a five-game series. Penbrook and Perry County, both with 24 points, are playing a play-in game to see who takes on LInglestown in the other series.

Team roster

According to the league’s website, the Middletown roster is Corey Auerbeck, Tyler Auerbeck, Melido Castro, Andrew Clark, Phil Donner, Roberto Escalet, Arturo Figueroa, Tito Figueroa, Victor Guiterrez, Tyler Heckard, Cody Henry, Louis Hile, Dillon Hippensteel, Adrian Huber, Tyler Johnston, Ethan Kell, Chuck Kline, Brian Mostek, Greg Pickel, Steve Pickel, Brandon Popp, Ryan Popp, Braedon Thomas, Gio Torres, Ryan Trafecanty and Zach Whitman.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 July 2016 14:42

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