American Legion baseball is huge in this area, evidenced by the number of teams which have played in the Ninth District at all levels in recent years.
In the past three seasons, Washington Post 218 teams have won two Junior Legion state championships, two Freshman Legion state championships and a Senior Legion runner-up finish.
However, things could be different in 2018 for all teams.
The American Legion Baseball Committee recently announced changes for the 2018 season, some major, some minor and some which might not impact our teams.
The one thing which will affect our teams is a change in the pitch count rules. Last year, Senior Legion pitchers could throw 120 pitches in one day, above what high school pitchers were allowed. With many high school graduates playing, that level was allowed a higher pitch count. The committee voted to bring the Senior Legion level into high school standards with 105 being the maximum number of pitches now.
Per the 2018 PitchSmart rules, pitchers throwing 81 or more pitches in a day must rest for four days. Those throwing between 61 and 80 must rest for three days and 46 to 60 pitches require two days’ rest. Players throwing 31 to 45 pitches must rest a day. Anything less than 30 pitches has no rest requirement, but a pitcher can only appear twice in any three-day span. Any pitcher who starts, moves to a different position and then goes back to pitch again will be charged with two appearances for PitchSmart requirements.
At the local level, this will mean more players will have to have a pitching background on the 18-player teams.
At least one area administrator has advocated for roster expansion. Sure, that means more players might not be able to play each game, but it also would help teams make sure they could have enough pitching.
There has been no movement on expanding rosters. Some programs struggle to get enough players to fill out a legal team, so the pitching rules might force them to fold or merge if they can’t find enough players. Helping this move is the fact that this will be the second year of the same rules at the high school level, which means more players will be getting time on the mound there and thus be ready to pitch at the Legion level.
The next rule could impact play here. Courtesy runners will be allowed for pitchers or catchers during the regular season only. Each department will have to approve the rule. A re-entry rule also has been allowed, pending each state department’s approval.
This will get more players into the game and bring contests more in line with high school rules while moving away from professional rules. This could get more players involved in the game.
Previously, courtesy runners were allowed at the Senior Legion level for in-season tournaments. There was no re-entry.
The new Graduate Rule could bring more high school graduates into Legion ball. In the past, only 19-year-old players could play if they had previously played Legion baseball. Now, a 19-year-old can play. Former Legion players must play for their previous team. Those playing for the first time must play for the team closest to their domicile.
Two rules which might not impact our area teams are national tournament play being dropped from nine-inning to seven-inning games and regional tournament bidding procedures. We’ve never had a local team make a national tournament, since only the Senior Legion level goes that far.
As far as regional bidding goes, none of our local fields currently meet the standards for hosting a tournament of that stature.
It will be interesting to see what does and doesn’t get implemented this summer.
There were some responses to my last column about the area’s best running backs.
Matt Trower brought up Elton Glass, who was a standout player at Pacific High School around the same time JR Witthaus was achieving great things in the veer at Hermann (mid-’90s). Glass was an outstanding player who always made good things happen on the field.
Tim Calvin brought up Washington’s Tim Hayes, who was an outstanding back in the mid and late ’60s, well before my time. Hayes still holds the Washington record for scoring (488 points) and is second behind Jamie Dowler for career rushing yards (3,648).
Calvin sent over some Washington Top-10 lists and two more jump out as well. Denodus O’Bryant (2005-07) had an excellent run at Lindenwood University after he played for the Blue Jays and had a brief pro stint with the Indianapolis Colts. Joltin’ Joe Parker (1992-93) might have been overshadowed by Brock Olivo and Borgia’s state championship team, but he was a bruising runner in his time at Washington.
Gary Biermann brought up Justin Biermann of the Sullivan Eagles. Biermann was a game-changer for the Eagles and helped lead the team to the 2012 Class 4 state quarterfinals. Biermann, who went on to Central Missouri, split time between running back and quarterback during his varsity career with a hand injury keeping him at running back during one season.
Biermann and Garrett Leimkuehler were pretty similar in dividing time between the two positions and both suffered from hand injuries.
I’m sure there are others out there I’m still looking past. Please keep the suggestions coming at firstname.lastname@example.org.