25 years later, ‘90 Elks squad still the best

By on July 22, 2015
Members of the 1990 Ephrata Elks team and brother Austin look on as Kierstin Deamer throws out the first pitch during Saturday night’s Region Four game between Ephrata and Northeastern. Aus¬tin’s and Kierstin’s father Nate was a member of the ‘90 team who tragically passed away. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

Members of the 1990 Ephrata Elks team and brother Austin look on as Kierstin Deamer throws out the first pitch during Saturday night’s Region Four game between Ephrata and Northeastern. Aus¬tin’s and Kierstin’s father Nate was a member of the ‘90 team who tragically passed away. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

It started Friday evening with an alumni game and reunion dinner. The Ephrata Elks American Legion baseball team from 1990, the only Lancaster County team to ever play in the National Legion Tournament, had gathered to play, reminisce and to be recognized.
It continued Saturday evening, as the 2015 Ephrata squad was set to take the field as the host team in the Region Four Tournament at the War Memorial Field. Fifteen minutes before the game, returning players, coaches and family members gathered behind the pitcher’s mound, hearing their names once more over the loud speaker at “The War.”
One missing teammate, then 14-year-old Nate Deamer, who passed away in 2009 at the age of 33, was represented by his wife, son and daughter. The children took turns throwing ceremonial first pitches to 90’ catcher and current Ephrata High School Baseball Coach Adrian Shelley.
This reporter had the opportunity to talk with several players, coaches and even one league official about that “once in a lifetime” season. The team’s slogan fit like a glove &tstr; “Dream the Impossible.”
Eric Martin, who played third base, pitcher and some late-season outfield, is now a teacher at the Ephrata Middle School.
“My best memory from that year was the team camaraderie and friendship building,” Martin said. “You can see it in the turnout tonight.”
Shelley, who caught and played second base, is also a teacher in the Ephrata School District.
“It was a tight-knit group,” Shelley said of the ‘90 team. “Most played all 44 games (33-11). We even came home to play games while at ‘Senior Week.’ We felt like we owed that to the team.”
Brad Crills, who pitched and played second base, was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles, playing several years in their minor league system. He is now employed by Ephrata Borough.
“My best memories were just hanging out with 18 guys that you liked being with every day,” he said. “Whether it was playing baseball or doing something else.”
Some of the player memories included the coaching staff.
“(Head Coach Andy Fasnacht) allowed us to play with no pressure,” said Martin. “He was certainly a player’s coach.”
“The coaching staff had a lot to do with (our success),” added Crills. “They let us be 18-year-olds…there was no pressure.”
“The coaches had us play a pretty comprehensive schedule,” explained Shelley. “There were some pretty bad early-season losses, like 18-1 at Boyertown. That experience helped us later in the season.”
Phil Rudisill, an assistant on the 1990 team, was a Junior High teacher at Ephrata then, and is a Junior High teacher in the Octorara School District now.
“To me, perseverance is the word that describes that season,” Rudisill said. “We lost by huge margins to Boyertown, Greencastle and Fredericksburg, then beat all three in either the Regionals or States.”
Fasnacht, who coached the team through the 1995 season, is now the Editor of both The Ephrata Review and Lititz Record Express.
“There was certainly a lot of talent on that team, but the togetherness was the key,” he said. “They were very close knit.”
Bruce Daveler became District 10 League President in 1991, the year after the Ephrata run. He is still League President 25 years later, and remembers that ‘90 Ephrata team well.
“I was on the Regional Tournament Committee in 1990,” he said. “I was the official scorekeeper for a lot of the Ephrata games. It was one of my favorite teams to follow. The way Andy used to run around like a little kid. Adrian Shelley was like a little general out on the field.”
The Ephrata community got behind this team from up close and from afar as those who were part of the team remembered.
“Ephrata was always there,” said Fasnacht. “The parental support was key for our team. They also had great faith in the coaches to take the kids so far.”
Shelley agreed.
“It was a die-hard commitment from the parents,” he said. “It was satisfying that they were part of it. And the parade that they (community) put on for us when we came back, wow.”
“They shut down the town for us,” added Crills. “With fire engines and other vehicles.”
“With the publicity of this event, I even saw tidbits on Facebook,” described Martin. “They remembered coming to games and remembered the success.”
“Last night (the alumni game) showed a continuation of the support,” said Rudisill. “There were hundreds of fans plus players.”
If possible, the panel was asked to put their finger on the best memory of the 1990 season.
“These guys allowed me to feel like a professional for a short period of time,” explained Rudisill. “We flew, stayed in hotels and even had meal money.”
“Just seeing how far the team could advance,” added Shelley. “Every day was an additional opportunity.”
“Winning the County championship,” interjected Crills. “We came so close in high school, and we finally got our shot.”
Fasnacht said that revenge was the big factor for him.
“Winning the Regional Tournament,” he said. “Having to win two games on the last day against Fredericksburg, after they had beaten us 25-2. Equal to that was beating Boyertown 12-6 in States.”
He also added a sentimental thought.
“When the season was over, they gave me a memory book. They appreciated the time we gave to the team,” Fasnacht said.
As to the Friday night alumni game? They must still be the best, as the 90’ club came from behind for a 9-4 win over a team of Ephrata alumni from all over years.
“It was cool to be back together on the field,” said Martin. “We talked the same way we did when we were 18.”
And played.

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