Kolinsky Feeling Comfortable In Legion Outfield

Posted: August 10, 1988

Achieving success on the American Legion's all-star baseball circuit can do wonders for a young man's wardrobe.

Take centerfielder Jason Kolinsky. And make sure to give him a larger closet.

While progressing step by step and week by week from Archbishop Ryan to Bishop Egan to Temple University's Erny Field to Pottstown to Coplay to Harrisburg's Riverside Stadium, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates' affiliate in the Class AA Eastern League and site of the Legion's recent East-West state all-star affair, Kolinsky gained a T-shirt, two hats, a trophy, a warmup jacket, a winter jacket and . . .

"Let's see, was that it? Did I get a bag?" Kolinsky asked himself. "Nah, no bag."

Kolinsky, a Northeast High grad bound for Temple, went quietly yesterday - 0-for-4, no balls particularly stung - as Loudenslager Post 366, the host, fell to Danville Post 40, 7-5, at Erny Field in the first round of the 63rd annual Pennsylvania American Legion State Baseball Tournament. (The eight- team, double-elimination tourney continues through Saturday at Erny and La Salle University's DeVincent Field.) But overall, this hardly has been a summer of discontent.

Kolinsky batted .533 during Loudenslager's regular season, received a full scholarship to Temple (nixing Rider and South Alabama) and, of course, earned acclaim as one of the state's top Legion players.

"Each all-star game gets harder and harder. Everybody's better and better," Kolinsky said. "I thought I could make it all the way to Harrisburg, but I didn't know what would happen. I just hoped to do well each time.

"By the time you get to Coplay, the quality is very, very high. Everyone can throw and everyone can run; my time for the 60 was 6.8. You usually get only two at-bats per game, so you have to do something with them. At Coplay, I hit a nice line drive. That gave me confidence about advancing."

As much as anything else, Jason Kolinsky has used this summer to execute a transformation from suspect to prospect.

Though Kolinsky often hit well in three varsity seasons at Northeast, his fielding - at shortstop - bordered on the atrocious. In three years with Loudenslager, he has shifted from short to third to center.

That latter position was played, ultimately, by Jason's father, Steve, who also went from Northeast ('61) to Temple, played minor league ball for the Phillies and Boston Red Sox (he led the Eastern League in hitting in '69) and has coached Cheltenham High's varsity for 14 seasons.

Jason's brother, Mike, a junior-to-be outfielder, is already part of Temple's program.

At times, especially after committing an error, Jason Kolinsky acknowledges that he felt like yelling to people attending Northeast's games, "Hey, I'm not a shortstop! Think of me as a future outfielder!"

"I keep thinking about how my Northeast career went," he said. "I should have played outfield from the start, I guess. There's a lot less pressure. It's not easy when you're making errors here and there and the coach is constantly giving you a hard time.

"The thing was, I always knew I should be at shortstop, that I had the talent to play it. But I guess, deep down, I didn't want to be there. That's probably why I was never good enough at it.

"You know, it's funny," he added. "My father was a shortstop at Northeast, then moved to center when he got to Temple."

Loudenslager, which had dropped a three-game series to Roche in the city semifinals, trailed Danville, 5-0, after five innings. But in the sixth, second baseman Bobby Higginson, rightfielder Steve Pessel and catcher Al Conti (two) drove in runs as Loudie tied the score.

Danville scored single runs in the sixth and seventh, with RBI going to centerfielder Doug Furillo (single) and third baseman John Brent (double). Mark Evans earned the win, pitching 3 1/3 innings of hitless, scoreless relief.

Kolinsky admitted that Loudenslager's players have "thought a little bit" about whether they can compete in this tourney. After all, their berth was not earned as a regional winner but came because of their host status. But he also noted, "We could win the whole thing. It wouldn't take that much. We stayed with this club pretty well."

And Jason Kolinsky will stay at home.

"Rider was very tempting," he said. "That scholarship amounted to about $50,000. It was hard to turn down. But I figured if I went up there, only my parents would come see me play. At Temple, a lot of people will come . . . hopefully."

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