American Legion Baseball has been a staple in Colorado for years. Due to the influx of club baseball teams, the storied organization is struggling to attract local players and schools to participate.
Silver Creek High School head baseball coach Bradley Steward encourages his players to choose the legion route during the summer season.
“It’s one of the last traditions of the way baseball used to be,” said Steward, who will be entering his second season leading the Raptors. “They’re just fighting the battle of these club teams popping up, and they (players) would rather go play tournaments and play out of state than stay and play local teams.”
Besides the often high price tag, the desire to play club baseball over the summer has never been higher in Colorado. Summer 2019 has seen Niwot and Boulder High School compromise their legion program, at least for the time being.
Losing players to the club scene can be detrimental to the competitive high school spring season in a number of ways. Legion ball yields the opportunity to strengthen team comradery and build a team mindset heading into the spring season, according to Steward.
Equally important is the chance for a player to improve his game over the summer. Becoming a better ballplayer is key for the summer season according to Steward. High quality repetitions and game opportunities helped make this goal a reality.
“Guys that we needed to see progress, made progress over the course of the summer,” said Steward. “...As a team, we didn’t have the wins and losses like we would have liked to have had, but we did see some development in the players that we needed to see development in and I think it will help us be in a better spot come spring.”
While the future of legion baseball remains unclear, there is no doubt in Steward’s mind that it has been a valuable commodity for a high school program.
“As long as the good guys are still willing to fight the fight, legion will be around,” said Steward. “But as soon as it just becomes too hard, I don’t know if legion will have a future.”