PITTSBURG, Kan. — Baseball is just about as American as cherry pie, hot dogs, and fireworks on the 4th of July, but over the years, it’s become more time consuming and potentially very expensive for young players to develop their skills. That’s why American Legion baseball, which is run by veterans and has been around for over seven decades, is actively aiming to eliminate costs for players, and bring the community together in the process.
Allen Eichhorn, Pittsburg American Legion Adjutant, says, “Our main goal is to get these young baseball players noticed so they can have coaches looking at them and get them scholarships to go play baseball.”
Pittsburg Post #64 has had success with that goal. Last year alone, nine of the team’s players were offered scholarships..
It’s an opportunity some players wouldn’t have otherwise. While club baseball teams can charge thousands of dollars to join, American Legion baseball is free to play.
Eichhorn says, “If it wasn’t for the Legion team here, a lot of the kids’ parents that don’t have the money to pay out, [it’s about] getting them to understand that this is one of the best baseball programs in the country. Legion baseball has been around since the early 40’s.”
With that longstanding presence in the community comes expectations for players: specifically, their character both on, and off, the field.
Ronnie Light, Pittsburg Post #64 manager, says, “There’s a lot of different factors in the way we choose players. It’s not just totally based on ability because baseball to me is metaphor for life. You have to be a good person or at least working towards that to be successful, not only on our baseball team but in life after baseball as well.”
Post #64 leaders have made several changes in recent years to the team, including adopting the mascot ‘Patriots’. The hope is that the team can bring the community together both physically, and in spirit.
Light says, “Instead of worrying about what makes us different, worry about what makes us united whether its baseball, football, as long as you can find that commonality, you can work through any kind of problem there is. What would make me happy is if we fill Jaycee Ballpark with as many people as I see at Hutchinson Field on a Friday night during a football game.”
That’s a goal they’re still actively working towards, so more people can get in on the fun.
Trevor Ameersheck, Post #64 player, “We have a lot of fun, I think of out of all these teams around the area, I think we have the most fun out of everyone, always laughing, always smiling, but when it’s time to play we can play.”
Several notable players have gone through the Pittsburg Post #64 program over the years, including Bill Russel, P.J. Forbes, Dan Smith, and Don Dennis, who all made it to the MLB.