The West Akron Baseball League’s Orioles went undefeated this season, blasting the competition in the “I League” — namely, other 6, 7 and 8 year olds — much to the delight of their sponsors: local boys made good the Black Keys.
Of course, winning the league was probably a secondary concern to the Keys (especially since there are no playoffs in the I League, and parents still pitch to each batter) … after all, both Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney grew up playing in the WABL as kids, and agreed to sponsor a team after receiving a phone call from a family friend, Steve Milkovich, who just so happens to be the Orioles’ coach.
“My little brother was good friends with Pat Carney from kindergarten going forward; I can remember the Carneys coming over my house and playing baseball, always wearing [Cleveland] Indians hats,” Milkovich told MTV News. “And, I’m on the board of the WABL, so I’m always looking for sponsors, so I asked my brother to get ahold of Pat. But he’s currently a major in the U.S. Army, and he’s stationed in the Philippines, So I asked for Pat’s number, I called him myself, and he was like ’Heck yeah, we’ll sponsor a team! I played in WABL, Dan played in WABL, let’s do it!'”
Milkovich said the Keys sent a sponsorship check for $300 overnight, and within days, their name was printed on the back of the Orioles’ jersey (OK, it’s more of a T-shirt, but whatever). The team proudly wore the unis the entire season — taking on teams sponsored by local judges, restaurants and funeral homes — and no one outside of Akron was the wiser … until Carney posted a photo of the team’s jerseys on Instagram, and suddenly, the Orioles were the coolest team in youth baseball.
“It’s crazy now, people are contacting the league from everywhere, asking to buy one of the jerseys,” Milkovich said. “And that’s so great, but what I think is the most amazing is that the band never asked for anything, not even to be recognized. They just did it because they’re good guys, they remember playing in the league. It was just ’Here’s the check, go out and win some games.’ ”
Demand for the shirts has been so great that Milkovich said the band is considering selling limited-edition Black Keys baseball jerseys, with all proceeds going directly to WABL. He also joked that, given the amount of attention they’ve already brought to the league, it probably won’t be all that long until WABL names a field in the Keys’ honor. But, until then, the band will just have to make do with the benefits of sponsoring a team, which not only includes their names on the backs of the jerseys, but a plaque, too. Oh, and a VIP-invite to the Orioles’ official post-season party, set for this Thursday at the nearby Fort Island Swim Club.
“I think they’re on tour, but they’re definitely invited to the party if they’re in town,” Milkovich laughed. “The kids will swim and there will be pizza, which means someone will definitely swim too much and then puke. You know, boy stuff. I’m excited.”