EASLEY — After dwindling interest prompted Easley American Legion Post 52 to cancel last year’s baseball season, the decision never quite sat right with some members. So this year, they brought it back.
Still, the program is struggling.
“Legion baseball is about more than baseball, it is designed to offer some life lessons along with playing the game.,” said Post 52 Past Adjutant Paul Smith. “Even so, I suspect that American Legion Baseball may have to make changes in how they promote the game to compete with today’s travel teams. This needs to be done without lowering the expectations of the players or the standards required to play American Legion Baseball.”
Smith states that locally the Legion promotes the league by not charging the players to play.
“They are asked to furnish their cleats and gloves but Post 52 furnishes everything else: the insurance, balls, umpires and uniforms,” he said.
Smith also estimated the cost to field a team ranges between $6,000 to $8,000 per year — for the first 20 games alone.
“We made the playoffs but did not have to travel far from Easley. I wonder where the money would have come from if we had had to travel away and spend a night or two,” Smith said. “This year we were able to purchase jackets to reward the players.”
Smith said “American Legion Post 52, Easley, SC 2017 Baseball” was printed on the jackets which he hopes will instill pride in the players and leave them with a memento of their efforts.
“Even though the 2017 team did not win as many games as we hoped for they were winners by being respectful and courteous to everyone,” he said. “You should have seen them line up on the base line before the game, cross their right hand over their hearts, and respect the flag while the National Anthem played.”
The players were also challenged to obey the sportsmanship guidelines of the American Legion Baseball Creed, Smith said.
“Before the season started we reminded the players they were not only representing themselves but they were representing the American Legion, Post 52 and the community,” he said. “We shared with them they were representing veterans who served in WWII, Korea, Vietnam and the most recent the three desert wars. They were told about a couple of Post 52 WWII veterans who fought on Normandy and another who survived ten Kamakazi attacks while serving on the USS Hornet II.”
It was a responsibility they took to heart.
“They took their responsibility very serious and responded accordingly,” said Smith. “We gave them more than baseball, we gave them some real life lessons. That is what American Legion Baseball is about. I am very proud of the 2017 team and the Coaches Tim Elrod and Chris Bryant.”