It predates Little League, one of the most popular forms of youth travel baseball, by 14 years. Currently more than 5,400 teams are registered across all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico.
Teams flourished in our area at one time, but many were dissolved because of veteran volunteers passing away and/or financial constraints. But Hammond American Legion Post No. 3 of Blountville is reviving its program for 13- to 15-year-olds for the 2019 season. The new team will be called the Patriots.
American Legion is much like a travel baseball team during the summer, except it involves much more than just playing games on the diamond.
“The kids work closely with the veterans in this area,” team general manager Doug Mancabelli said. “It’s a way of giving back to the community and is a great way of connecting people across generations.”
Past players have appeared in the Kingsport Fourth of July parade, been a part of Veterans Day ceremonies and served Thanksgiving at the post.
“Baseball is big around here with all the minor league teams in the Appalachian League,” said Patriots coach Kevin Rasnick.
The 13- to 15-year-old program is not technically sanctioned as a division to qualify for the American Legion World Series held each fall in Shelby, N.C., but it does provide a guideline for players looking to further their careers.
The only sanctioned American League divisions are 17-under and 19-under. Each year, the American Legion World Series is each of those divisions is nationally broadcast on ESPN, and American Legion World Series champions are presented their rings at a special ceremony during Game 1 of the Major League Baseball World Series.
The post recently dropped the 19-under program in an effort to minimize expenses for players, parents and followers. Mancabelli and Rasnick said most of the tournaments for the 13- and 15-year-olds will be local or within a couple hours’ distance, though possibly with some big trips on the horizon.
Legion baseball season begins in early June and runs through August.
“We are actually working very closely with the Kingsport Mets to provide us with a game before one of their games next summer,” Mancabelli said. “The biggest problem we have right now is getting fields to play on.”
The tradition of American Legion Baseball boasts such names as Yogi Berra, Ted Williams, Frank Robinson, Chipper Jones and Sparky Anderson as well as former Vice President Dick Cheney, author and journalist Tom Brokaw and former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
American Legion Hammond Post No. 3 baseball officials wished to thank Kingsport Parks and Recreation, the Times News and the Kingsport Mets for all the help so far.
For more information about the program, call Mancabelli at (423) 323-8334 or Rasnick at (423) 335-9005.