By OLIVER GOOD
After more than 40 years in the offseason, American Legion Baseball will again answer the call to “play ball” this summer.
“There was a Legion team in Marion before we moved here in 1973, but I don’t recall when the last time they played was,” former president of Marion Athletic Association David Branson said. “There’s been Cal Ripken ball and Babe Ruth ball, but since I’ve been here, there hasn’t been a Legion team.”
Marion High School baseball assistant coach Jordan Metro will be head coach of the reborn team, with police chief Tyler Mermis assisting when available.
“Tyler came to me and we talked about getting the ball rolling back in the fall,” Metro said. “We’ve been working together to get it started.”
Players will be ages 19 and under, so Metro anticipates seeing many high schoolers on the team.
He also might need to seek out some Babe Ruth players ages 13 to 15 depending on roster numbers.
Conversely, REC director Margo Yates said it is too early to tell what kind of effect the Legion team will have on the REC program.
“The numbers change from year to year, so I like to see how many kids we have before we figure out how to make it work,” Yates said.
Metro, a REC board member, also values the REC program.
“I don’t want to take away from the REC league here,” he said. “I think it is a great league that helps develop our youth. Legion ball is just another step in that development phase for the older kids.”
Metro credited the program’s revival to the late Kevin Hoffer, his wife, Vickie, and daughter Shannon, who donated money to the James William Miesse American Legion Post 22 with the intent of starting a Legion baseball team.
“I’m excited because Legion baseball has such a long and awesome history,” Metro said. “My dad still talks about Legion games he played in as a kid.”
Legion teams do not have a set league or set of teams they play. Metro said games could be scheduled with anyone in the state that is willing to play.
Metro hopes to schedule about 30 games this season, with games roughly every other weekend as well as tournament games. He said each non-tournament game would be a double-header.
Metro estimated $150 per player will cover the cost of team insurance, uniforms, equipment, and tournaments.
“I have been talking with people within our community about fundraising ideas each kid can do in order to help alleviate the fee as well,” Metro said.
As an assistant coach for Marion High School baseball, Metro’s excitement extends into the school’s future.
“Legion ball is something we need to help sustain the high school program,” he said.
By having this team in place, players will get an extra two months of practice, which Metro said would help the team in the long run.
“It will help keep kids interested in baseball and also help them gain a greater understanding of our philosophies with the extra practices and games in our system.”
Legion ball players will face competition they might not normally play against near Marion, such as teams with players from bigger 5A and 6A schools, like Salina, Hays, Great Bend, and Wichita.
“It will be a major step up in competition level for our kids, and it’s always nice to play someone you’ve never seen before,” he said.