OLD ORCHARD BEACH — Jonathan Dehoux’s alarm goes off at 4 a.m. every day.

He’s out the door by 4:15 to commute to Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, a shipyard in Newport News, Va., just across the bay from Norfolk.

He clocks in for work as a maintenance electrician at 7 a.m. Hits the classroom. Clocks out at 3:30 p.m.

3:45 it’s time for baseball practice.

At 6-foot-5, with the build of a Division I athlete, he is joined by 20 teammates who have spent their days similarly: welders, pipe fitters, riggers, machinists, metalworkers.

They earn a paycheck each week. They play baseball in the afternoons.

Meet the Apprentice School, the top-seeded team in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association baseball tournament, which has been taking place at The Ballpark since Monday. The school’s program has been the only one of its kind since 1919.

The Shipbuilders were eliminated from the tournament with a 10-8 loss to Cincinnati Clermont Wednesday night.

“Our program takes a blue-collar, hard-working type of guy,” said Coach Bryan Cave, also a salaried manager in the shipyard. “It’s special. There are other trade schools, but we’re the only one that plays college sports.”

After high school, Dehoux wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps as a commercial blue crab fisherman. He wasn’t elated about going to college and was playing American Legion baseball when assistant coach John McConnell called.

“We all get along really well. And it’s like we get paid to play baseball,” said Dehoux.

Relief pitcher Tim Kehoe, a 24-year-old welding apprentice, hadn’t started a game in six years – since high school.

After trying out for a few other schools, he found the Apprentice School.

In a 5-2 win against Penn State Greater Allegheny earlier Wednesday, he got into a first-inning jam, walking three. Two runs scored on an error but he ended the inning with a strikeout.

the end of the game, he hadn’t allowed a hit and had walked just two more.

“Concentration is about the only thing that ties welding and baseball together,” said Kehoe. “Coach needed us all to step up here, and I guess I just got my nerves together and got in a groove.”

Right fielder Dory Fields hit two home runs — a two-run blast over the left-field wall in the fourth to tie the game 2-2, followed by a three-run homer to the opposite field in the fifth for the winning hit.

Both fastballs?

“I don’t know. I really wasn’t paying attention,” he said.

He got paid until 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, just about the time he hit his first homer.

Fields is being trained as a tugboat captain.

Cave said he finds many of his players after they’ve tried somewhere else. They’ll go away for a year, then give him a call.

“A lot of them start off coming in to play baseball,” said Cave. “Before you know it, they’re married, have a wife and kids, working full time. Some of these guys take care of their parents financially.

“They’re ultimately being prepped to be salaried employees who can lead the company for the next 40 years.”

Cave himself graduated from the program in 1978, when he was the school’s athlete of the year as a senior. In 20 years as head coach, he’s had just four losing seasons.

 

Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at:

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