With the conclusion of the 2014 American Legion baseball season, it also means change for several programs.
All will be losing players, who are graduating from the system or moving to older teams in the district. Some will be losing managers as well.
Two of the most prominent managers to be stepping aside after the 2014 season are West Senior Legion Manager A.J. Koenig and Daniel Boone Senior Legion Manager Scott Horace.
Koenig has been a fixture in the Ninth District for the past 15 years, 11 as manager of the West team. Prior to that, he spent four seasons managing the now-defunct O’Fallon program. He plans to remain as a board member with West.
“My favorite memories will always be the competition and the great friends I’ve met,” Koenig said. “Baseball is about taking our best nine and matching them up against an opponent’s best nine and finding out who is better on that day. I still love to compete and the Ninth District has given me and our players the opportunity to compete against some quality opponents.”
Koenig played a major role in helping West become one of the district’s top teams and that success included this season’s regular-season championship and the 2013 Ninth District Tournament title. That’s meant that Koenig and his West squad frequently has come up against Washington Post 218 in key games over the years. In 2014, West swept all four games, winning the two district games, Washington Tournament championship and a Ninth District Tournament game. In 2013, Washington had the better of West, knocking Koenig’s squad out of the Zone 1 Tournament in Moberly.
“Some of the best friends I have in my life, I’ve met through baseball,” Koenig said. “There are many players, coaches and administrators associated with Post 218 that I consider to be in that group of friends. The respect between the two programs has always been top shelf.”
Horace hasn’t been involved as long as Koenig, but developed a reputation of bringing the Daniel Boone Post 262 program back to the top of the Ninth District.
A former college baseball player at Southeast Missouri State University, Horace managed his sons in the game. The youngest, Justin, graduated in the spring from Borgia.
Horace led Post 262 to the Ninth District and Zone 1 titles in 2012, finishing second in the state event. This summer, Daniel Boone finished second in the Ninth District during the regular season and earned a berth in the Zone 1 Tournament.
“This year was a lot of fun as well, and I think we probably had the best team that’s ever put on a Daniel Boone uniform,” Horace said. “Unfortunately, we could never seem to get all the guys there at the same time. If we had, I’m confident that we would have been a serious contender for a state championship. But that never happened, and we ended up finishing 18-7. We had a lot of success and a lot of fun this summer, finishing second in the league.”
Horace said the team’s success was due to its core group, which played all the way through the Legion system.
“I’ve got to mention our core guys who stuck with us for all four years and deserve the credit for establishing us as a quality team,” Horace said. “Brendan Trimble, Tanner Kulpa, Austin Forney, Alex Schoenherr, Taylor Gossen and Justin Horace were all there from day one and were a great core group of guys. Brian Land, Ryan Meyer, Kelly Faron, Dan Speckert and Josiah Longenecker made some great contributions as well in the three years they were with us. I’m really going to miss being in the dugout with those guys next summer. And I can’t say enough about our coaches and our parents — I’m sure they didn’t always agree with every move I made, but they were incredibly supportive of the team and they made my job as a coach much easier and much more enjoyable.”
Horace first saw the potential in the team when the 2012 Juniors made their run to the state finals, finishing second.
“First, winning the preseason tournament at Washington as a AA team in 2012,” Horace said about his favorite times with Daniel Boone. “I can’t thank the Washington guys enough for lending us their dugout stools in that tournament. I don’t think we knew how good we really could be that year until we went out and proved it right off the bat. That set the tone for the whole season. While we didn’t win the regular season title, we did win the district tournament and then went on to beat Hannibal at Ronsick in extra innings to win zone. The district title was the first championship of any kind for the Daniel Boone program, and that will always be a great source of pride for our guys. We went 33-10 and ended up finishing second in the state that year, making a ton of great memories along the way.”
Horace also relished the memories as a father as well with a grand slam home run by his son, Justin, against West at Westhoff Park this season being a favorite moment.
“We were down 5-3 in the bottom of the fifth with the bases loaded and two out,” Scott said. “Justin was up and with two strikes on him, he blasted a shot over the left field fence for a grand slam that put us up 7-5. Being on the receiving end of a pretty robust high-five as he rounded third was a great moment for me as a coach, but for me as a dad it was truly priceless. I’ll never forget it.”