For Kozemchak, it's the ultimate road trip

Posted: June 24, 2013

OK, SO MATT Kozemchak was experiencing at least a partial version of Down-in-the-Dumps Syndrome by early Saturday afternoon.

For a very cool reason, however, he didn't even edge close to full-blown.

Though it would have been great to stride to the plate at Citizens Bank Park and, who knows, maybe lace one into the gap, it's not as if the rest of Kozemchak's baseball summer will be unappealing.

For reasons no one has yet explained to him, the 5-11, 180-pound Kozemchak, a recent graduate of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, has been chosen to play for a squad that soon will make a mighty-far journey.

"I know we're going to France and Germany and the Czech Republic; can't remember for sure where else," he said.

Kozemchak then mentioned that the sponsoring group is called Old World Baseball. Isn't Google amazing? OWB's website detailed the expected itinerary: Up to 11 games, depending on weather, against teams from Sweden and Belgium in addition to the countries already mentioned.

The crew will gather in New York City July 5 and catch that night's Yankees' game vs. Baltimore before flying to Paris the next day. The Munich-to-NYC return flight is set for July 18.

"I think my favorite destination will be Paris," Kozemchak said. "And the coolest thing will be the visit to the Eiffel Tower. That's something I've always wanted to see."

Saturday at Richie Ashburn Field, in South Philly's FDR Park, Kozemchak hoped to help Inter-Ac/Independent carve out a victory in the quarterfinal round of the 28th annual Carpenter Cup Classic, as that would have assured a trip to CBP for today's semifinals.

Instead, the I-A/Indy guys were sliced and diced, 13-1, by Jersey Shore. Having gone 2-for-2 with a stolen base as the backup DH, Kozemchak at least was able to know he'd fared well.

In the average season, he sees two or three Phillies games.

"If you're from Philadelphia, and you play baseball, of course you'd love to play at Citizens Bank Park," Kozemchak said. "I'm disappointed we're not going to get to do that.

"Coming off our big win [14-4 over the Public League] in the first round, we were feeling pretty good about our chances. That things turned out like this is definitely surprising."

Kozemchak posted a single in the sixth on a hard grounder up the middle that glanced off the shortstop en route to centerfield. Two innings later he sent a shot in the same direction, then stole second. Against the Pub, as the starting DH, he'd gone 2-for-3 with a run scored.

Pretty comfy in that DH spot, eh?

"Not really. I can't say that," he said. "Even now that I've been doing this for a while, it's hard to stay focused on the game. I'm a competitive kid. I like to be involved in the flow of the game.

"Just sitting in the dugout, it's hard to keep your legs loose."

I-A/Indy tallied its run in the second inning, thanks to the bottom three guys in the order. Haverford School's Drew Field and Germantown Academy's Zeke Zabinski drew walks, then Friends Select's August Dichter cracked an RBI single to right.

Junior righty Ross Mintzer, Kozemchak's schoolmate, fared the best on the mound with two shutout innings.

During SCHA's season, the Lehigh-bound Kozemchak, a lefty thrower/hitter and resident of Lower Gwynedd, was expected to thrive throughout as a pitcher/rightfielder. But in a game vs. Haverford School, while making a throw that erased a guy who was trying to turn a bloop single into a double, he suffered a shoulder strain.

So much for pitching. Ditto for outfielding, mostly.

"I did play out there in a couple very important games," he said. "Otherwise I was strictly a DH.

"I was doing physical therapy twice a day and I just got cleared for long-tossing on Thursday. I'm hoping to pitch on this trip, but . . . My main focus is to be ready for fall ball at Lehigh."

And maybe he'll even become an Eiffel Tower of strength.

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