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The AAABA Tournament has rebounded from a COVID-19 canceled event in 2020, but the impact of the global pandemic still will be felt when the 76th tourney opens on Aug. 2.

The Capital City Reds, a new AAABA franchise located in Ottawa, Canada, will not make the trip across the U.S.-Canada border, according to AAABA Chairman John Austin, of Altoona.

The development had been feared for several weeks and didn’t come as a complete surprise to tournament organizers.

“We’ve been in touch with them the last two months, and it’s been a nightmare for them with COVID (restrictions),” Austin said of the Ottawa team. “They felt it would be better to pull out this year, but they said they’re definitely looking forward to playing in Johnstown next year.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada “is continuing to advise travelers to avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada,” according to a Government of Canada website.

While not entirely due to COVID-19 issues, Austin said the New York City franchise also will miss the 2021 tournament.

Only a few months ago, tournament organizers envisioned a tournament without multiple franchises from multiple cities. But Austin said in addition to host Johnstown, this year’s AAABA Tournament now will have two teams apiece from Altoona and Brooklyn.

Austin said the New York City franchise has dealt with the effects of the pandemic – as all AAABA teams have during the past two years. He said the franchise is contending with other organizational challenges, without elaborating.

“The team in Long Island couldn’t get the resources to come here this year,” Austin said.

The 16-team field will include Johnstown-1, Johnstown-2, Altoona-1, Altoona-2, Buffalo, Brooklyn-1, Brooklyn-2, Cleveland, Columbus, Maryland State, New Brunswick, New Orleans, North Carolina, Philadelphia, Youngstown, and Zanesville.

“We’re not happy about it,” Austin said of losing two franchises from the 2021 field. “But it is what it is. It’s a tough go this year, but as we have said before, we felt if we didn’t have a tournament again this year due to COVID-19 challenges, we’d be in trouble.

“I’m just glad we are going to be able to have the tournament and we’ll build on it from there.”

Johnstown Oldtimers Baseball Association President George Arcurio III commended area businesses and sponsors for “really stepping up” to help the tournament regain its footing after the financial hit of the 2020 cancellation.

Arcurio said the tournament is in a much better situation than he might have envisioned just a few months ago.

“Ads have really taken off for our annual program book. We’re well over 125 to 135 ads,” Arcurio said. “Advance ticket sales for opening night are over 3,500, and we’re pushing the 4,000-ticket mark at this point. The business communities in Cambria, Somerset and Blair counties have really gone overboard to help keep the tournament in Johnstown.

“The year off hurt us really badly,” he said. “We have to rely on the businesses, and they’re coming through in big numbers.”

Arcurio said while the Capital City Reds situation is disappointing, he preferred to focus on the addition of the new team in Salisbury, North Carolina. The Carolina Disco Turkeys have created a social media buzz with their catchy logo and online presence, attracting national media attention while often mentioning Johnstown and the AAABA Tournament.

“I felt bad that the Canadian team can’t get here, but we’re looking forward to them being here in 2022,” Arcurio said. “The bright side is we have the new Carolina team, the Disco Turkeys, who are giving us national publicity. I’m really looking forward to see how they’re going to do in our tournament.”

Arcurio said the Johnstown Oldtimers and Flood City Corvette Club have worked together to ensure that the popular tradition of Corvettes carrying AAABA Ambassadors into Sargent’s Stadium at the Point on opening night will continue.

Originally, due to the parade of teams and ambassadors being cut back, plans to go without the Corvettes were considered.

“We’re going to have the Flood City Corvette Club bring in our ambassadors again,” Arcurio said. “Also on opening night, Miss Pennsylvania (Meghan Sinisi, of Altoona) will throw out one of the ceremonial pitches. We’re looking forward to putting on a show this year and trying to get things back to normal. We’re pushing hard.”