The Fourth of July has long been one of the favorite holidays of legendary Mon-Clair League manager Vern Moehrs.
And it's not because of the sparklers or fireworks.
For nearly four decades, the 79-year-old Moehrs has spent a large part of the Fourth of July holiday managing Waterloo at the Valmeyer Mid-Summer Baseball Classic.
And he's loved every minute of it.
"We've been at every Valmeyer Tournament except one and I think we've won it 14 times, which I think is more than anybody else,'' the shrewd Moehrs said. "This is my 54th year managing Waterloo and I still feel fantastic. Do I still love the game? You bet I do.''
The 2014 Valmeyer Mid-Summer Classic kicks off at 9 a.m. on Friday when Moehrs' Waterloo Millers team takes on the Belleville Rockies.
The Waterloo-Belleville game is one of four first-round games scheduled for Friday at Borsch Park. Cape Girardeau (Mo.) will take on Fairview Heights at 11:30 a.m. and that tilt will be followed at 2 p.m. when the St. Louis Spikes tangle with Millstadt VFW in a game which should be the best of the day, at least on paper.
The Spikes lead the St. Clair Division of the Mon-Clair League with a 16-2 mark while Millstadt is second in the rugged Monroe Division with a 12-6 record.
Host Valmeyer will take on the St. Louis Printers in the final first-round game at 4:30 p.m.
Play resumes on Saturday with consolation semifinals at 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.. Championship semifinals are set for 2 and 4:30 p.m.
The consolation final is set for 10 a.m. Sunday with the third place and championship games to follow. The title game is set for 3:30 p.m.
But the Mid-Summer Classic in Valmeyer is far more than just a baseball tournament.
Also on tap are sand volleyball tournaments and other games and contests. There will be activities for the kids, plenty of tasty food and thirst quenching beverages, a parade, fireworks and entertainment for the whole family under the pavilion on Friday and Saturday night.
But baseball will on the minds of most who journey to Valmeyer during the next three days.
Waterloo is the defending tournament champion and enters the tournament with a 19-2 record. But the Millers will be pushed by the quality field of teams.
"It's really hard to say who the favorite is for the Valmeyer Tournament. I do know one thing though. For three days, you're going to see some pretty good baseball being played," Moehrs said. "Because the Valmeyer Tournament is a lot of fun to play in, you don't know who will show up to play.
"Belleville's got a good ballclub and you've got the Spikes. Fairview Heights has struggled but they've done well here in the past. Then you've got Millstadt, which has played well recently and Valmeyer is also strong. Depth in pitching will be the key the next three days.''
The Millers have relied on a strong pitching staff which has been led by ageless ace Brandon Musso (4-0, 1.44 ERA) and John Auble (6-0, 1.71 ERA).
Justin Dunning, who was the MVP of the 2013 Valmeyer Classic, leads a strong offensive attack while veteran Jake Frierderich (.412) is currently fifth in the league in hitting.
The St. Louis Spikes have the top two hitters in the Mon-Clair League and a quality ace in Jon Kars (5-0, 1.79 ERA).
Still one of the youngest teams in the league, Millstadt is led by brothers Mitch Matecki (.442) and Luke Matecki (.411). Left-hander Sam Lidisky (5-0, 1.75 ERA)) anchors the Millstadt staff.
Fairview Heights is led by Sam Wahlig (.410) and Rob Blumberg (3-3, 1.66 ERA) while Belleville's hopes could rely heavily on Marty Brunk (.434) and pitcher Ryan Warnecke (2-1, 1.30 ERA).
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at 239-2661 or firstname.lastname@example.org