PHILIPSBURG — If you drive around Philipsburg right now, you can’t help but be hit with sports fever.
Across from the football field, there is a big banner encouraging an athlete, and it’s not someone who is taking the gridiron. In the ice-cold end of October, it’s one of the boys of summer getting all the attention.
They call him “Big City.” It couldn’t be further from the truth.
Long before Matt Adams moved to St. Louis, Mo., to play first base for the Cardinals, he was a Philipsburg-Osceola Mountie.
There are more club seats at Busch Stadium than there are residents of Philipsburg.
After a great 2013 season, just his second in Major League Baseball, Adams had a chance to swing his bat against the Pittsburgh Pirates and then Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League playoffs. Locals distracted by the Pirates’ first winning season in 20 years were suddenly realizing that losing was a major league win. One of their own was now in the World Series.
“I’ve known him since he was a kid,” said Judy Sinclair, who has manned the front desk at the Moshannon Valley Branch of the Centre County YMCA for decades. Her own sons were some of Adams’ early coaches. She traveled to Harrisburg when he played for a state title.
“It’s like he’s family,” she said. “I’m just so proud of him.”
Former elementary principal Dick Wood was athletic director for part of Adams’ tenure as a Mountie. He said he’s excited to see him in the series.
“It’s an inspiration for other athletes,” Wood said.
You don’t have to know the No. 53 to be impressed by his achievement.
“It’s cool,” said Garrett Pelton, of Morrisdale. “It’s not every day that there is someone from the area make it big.”
Many see Adams’ spin on the national stage as the culmination of an area love affair with the diamond. He has gone further in the big leagues than other local ballplayers, but he isn’t the first to play on after graduation.
Brian Pelka was drafted by the Pirates in 1991 and played five years in the minors. Josh Potter was picked by the Baltimore Orioles in 2001 and played six seasons.
Young players now spend time in the Keno Beezer Baseball Complex at the Y, named after the longtime executive director, baseball enthusiast and scout.
Philipsburg’s NFL success story, Oakland Raider Jon Condo, was a triple threat at P-O in baseball and wrestling as well as football.
“Baseball has been in the blood of the Moshannon Valley for a long time, but Matt Adams’ success has taken our collective love for the game to a new level,” said Daniel Nelson, who was part of a choir that sang at PNC Park when the Cardinals met the Pirates for a Philipsburg Day doubleheader. “You see, this event is more than just Matt Adams playing in the World Series — I see it as the culmination of the efforts and legacy of so many great baseball players and those who long proclaimed that the talent for greatness was here. Matt is a huge part of that legacy.”
Others see it as validation that area coaches and leagues are getting something right.
“In my many years of being associated with P-O, I have seen several athletes excel in our various sports,” said school board member Linda Bush. “It makes me especially proud to see Matt work his way up through the ranks into the major leagues and the world series. Matt stands as a tribute to the dedication and hard work of our faculty and coaching staff at P-O. Go Matt!”
The Cards face the Boston Red Sox at home Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Philipsburg will be watching.
“I think it’s fantastic,” said Carol Maxon. “I think everyone should be so proud of him. I just love it!”