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East invitational now bears Hall of Fame coach’s name

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LOU Giovanini is planning a trip north in early May to watch a week’s worth of Columbus East baseball games.

If the former East coach would make his trip from Florida two weeks earlier, he’d be able to see a tournament played in his honor.

The Olympians will host the Columbus East Lou Giovanini Baseball Invitational on Saturday at Clifty Park. Giovanini, who was the school’s first baseball coach from 1973-94, started the invitational.

“We’re trying to keep it going in his honor,” current East coach Jon Gratz said. “He was the first coach ever here, and he did a lot for our program as a whole. He won tons of sectionals, regionals and semistates.”

Giovanini won often enough that he was inducted into the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in January. However, he was recovering from a bone marrow transplant after having acute myeloid leukemia and could not make the trip from Venice, Fla.

East assistant coach John Major, who played for Giovanini, gave the speech on his behalf.

“I was still recuperating and couldn’t fly,” Giovanini said. “I was able to watch it on a link, and I got a kick out of how good a job he did.

“Coach Gratz and coach Major have been very gracious to me,” he said. “They were responsible for getting me in the Hall of Fame, along with some of our other former players.”

Columbus North, East Central and Muncie Central will be the other participants in the invitational.

“We’re thrilled to play in it,” North coach Ben McDaniel said. “I’m not from Columbus, but anybody you talk to that played for Lou, they have a lot of respect for him. He’s obviously a great figurehead in Columbus, and we’re happy to be a part of it.”

The Bull Dogs (5-0-1) will be making their first appearance in the tournament under McDaniel, a first-year head coach.

“We had an opening and thought we’d ask them if they wanted to join in, and they did,” Gratz said.

“(Gratz) let me know he was having the tournament and had an open spot and asked if we wanted to be in it,” McDaniel said. “It’s a great tournament with three other good teams, and we’re looking forward to a good weekend of baseball.”

The Olympians (5-2) will play East Central at 10 a.m. on the varsity field, and North will face Muncie Central at 10 a.m. on the JV field, which is the Bull Dogs’ old varsity diamond.

The consolation game will be around 12:30 p.m. on the JV field, and the championship will be around 12:30 p.m. on the varsity field.

“We’re looking forward to some good baseball,” Gratz said. “We have good teams coming in, and it should be good weather.”

If East and North play each other Saturday, it could be the first of three meetings between the two schools this year. The Bull Dogs will host the Olympians on May 7, and the teams could face off in the East Central Sectional.

“I won’t say it’s not a concern, but it’s definitely challenging to see a team potentially three times in a season,” McDaniel said. “With East being so deep and so strong this year, it’s definitely something I thought about. Anytime we play East, it’s going to be a good game.”

The Olympians are off to their best start in several years. Giovanini, who led East to state final four appearances in 1979, 1987 and 1989, will be flying in on April 30 and staying for about a week.

“I’m glad to see they’re back on the upswing again,” Giovanini said. “They’ve had a pretty good start to the season. Hopefully, they’ll keep it going.”

Giovanini, who moved to Florida with his wife shortly after retiring in 1994, had the bone marrow transplant in November in Tampa.

“Fortunately, we found a donor, and everything went well,” Giovanini said. “We’re on the road to recovery. We’re not out of the woods yet.

“It’s a continual process,” he said. “We have some energy and are able to fly, so we’re looking forward to getting up there. I’m very blessed and fortunate.”

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