With everyone but Sullivan and New Haven now done with high school baseball, we can look to the American Legion season.
But beyond the three programs being offered by Washington Post 218, there really isn’t a lot out there in Franklin County.
Post 218 has three teams, two of which advanced beyond the district level last year.
The Washington Seniors and Juniors each won Ninth District South titles. The Juniors were stopped by Jefferson City Post 5, the eventual state champion, in the Zone playoffs. The Seniors reached the winner-take-all state championship game before losing to Festus.
Washington has the only Senior Legion team in the county this season and Mike Gardner will lead the Post 218 efforts. He’s being assisted by Ben Cassat, Aaron Miller and Jeff Leimkuehler.
This year’s Post 218 team has a Washington look. All but two of the players competed this spring for either Washington or Borgia. One player, Cody Gardner, is returning from Truman State and David McNeal is a homeschooled student.
The Senior Legion team will be a blend of returning players and several who have been promoted from last year’s Junior Legion squad.
Returning players include Brendan Feldmann, Gardner, Brendan Kleekamp, Jack Kopmann, Trent Leimkuehler, Mike McGilvray and Austin Rettke.
The Junior Legion team has a much different look. Phillip Kleekamp returns to lead the Juniors this season and he’ll be assisted by Kent Getsee, Mic Fox and Phil Mallinckrodt.
Getsee is returning to coaching this season. He led the 2005 Juniors to the Mid-States Regional championship in Crowley, La., the highest level a Junior Legion team can attain.
This year’s Junior Legion team has representation from six different schools, Washington, Borgia, Pacific, New Haven, Hermann and Chaminade and many are moving up from last year’s Freshman Legion team. Peter Coulter is the most experienced player on the team.
It’s nice to see the Juniors taking advantage of the territory they can pull from to put together a strong team. Over the years, that’s something I’ve seen time and time again. The really good teams pull the best players from the schools within their area. You’ve got to use the best talent available and then forge it into a team to have success at the higher levels.
The Post 218 Freshman Legion team, led by Kevin Juergens, opens play this weekend in the Post 218 Preseason Tournament at Rotary Recreational Complex - Ronsick Field. It will be the first of many weekends with American Legion baseball there. Many teams don’t mind coming to Washington year after year because of the atmosphere here. A well-run concession stand doesn’t hurt, either, and Washington has one of the best.
Juergens is assisted by returning coach Jordan Bierbaum. Darrell Hasenjaeger, who has been a part of Kleekamp’s staff for the last couple of seasons, moves down to help with this team.
Juergens has four players coming back from last year’s team, Nathaniel Hillermann, John Himmelberg, Nick Thiel and Spencer Juergens. Post 218 didn’t advance beyond the district, but did go 28-7 last year.
This team has mostly Washington and Borgia students, but two players come from elsewhere. Micah McNeal is homeschooled and Kody Halmich is a St. Clair student.
Not including college or homeschool, that makes seven schools represented on the Post 218 teams this season. I know a number of other players have other plans this summer. Some will be playing for local high school-based teams. Others will be making the trek into St. Louis to play for travel teams. Still others will compete in their local USSSA or Babe Ruth programs.
It’s a shame there aren’t many other American Legion teams this season. Pacific Post 320 will field a Freshman Legion team and should be commended for doing that.
But the premier baseball in this area has got to be the American Legion ball. And Washington Post 218 has a proven track record of putting together competitive baseball teams.
It should be another fun summer at the old ballpark.
Boys and girls ages 6-14 have a chance to win a spot in the David Freese Baseball ProCamp June 28.
Camp sponsors include the Mid America Chevrolet Dealers.
Registration for the free position is under way at Chevrolet dealerships, including Modern Auto in Washington and Jim Trenary in Union.
The camp will be held at Lafayette High School from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. June 28.
The lucky winner will get 3 1/2 hours of instruction with David Freese and his staff, a limited edition David Freese Camp T-shirt, an exclusive autographed camp team photo with Freese and an opportunity to participate in contests and win prizes.
For more information on the camp, please see www.procamps.com/davidfreesecamp.