Leesburg American Legion Post to Host Regional Baseball Tournament

Following a grueling season of hard-fought baseball games between hundreds of teams, players in the American Legion Baseball’s Mid-Atlantic region are prepared to square off next week in Purcellville for a chance to play in their world series.

For a fourth consecutive year, the region’s top eight teams, each comprised of about 20 players aged 15-19 from Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia will compete in the legion’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Tournament at Fireman’s Field in Purcellville.  Hosted by Leesburg’s Post 34, the August 8-12 tournament will yield one winning team that will move on to play in the American Legion World Series in Shelby, NC, later this month.

The tournament will be played in a six-round format across five days, with the champions crowned at a final game on Sunday, Aug. 12. One team will represent each state, with the exception of Pennsylvania and Virginia. While Pennsylvania will enter two teams because it has so many teams, Virginia will enter its state champion and the host team, Post 34’s Rangers.

Post 34 Commander Jim Grenier said the Rangers are made up of mostly 18-19-year-olds from Loudoun County, Riverside, Woodgrove and Loudoun Valley high schools.

Hunter Keim, the pitcher of Leesburg’s American Legion Post 34 Rangers baseball team, throws one in to home plate at Fireman’s Field. [Contributed]
Head Coach Brenton Peters said that after placing third in the district standings, the Rangers are ready to emulate what they did a few years ago—dominate and head to the world series.

“I think from top to bottom, we have a ton of talent,” he said. “I’m excited to put this team out in the regional tournament.”

Grenier said that while baseball is what brings everyone together, fans can expect to see much more than just a game. Because the American Legion is a veteran’s organization, there will also be flag ceremonies, color guards, the reading of a sportsmanship code at the beginning of each day and an overall sense of patriotism among players. “That’s what this is all about—it’s bringing them together,” Grenier said.

Long before the regional tournament, more than 100,000 players from nearly 5,500 teams in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico competed all summer. Among the 510 teams in the Mid-Atlantic region, eight were able to fight their way through about a dozen games at the sub-state and state levels to make it in next week’s tournament. The winning team will advance to the legion’s world series to play against teams from the Northwest, Western, Central Plains, Mid-South, Great Lakes, Southeast and Northeast regions.

Not only do the thousands of legion teams have the chance to win the national championship, but 50 players also have the chance to earn $500 scholarships. Eight players from the legion are also selected to receive $2,500 scholarships, while the captain of the All-Academic Team receives a $5,000 scholarship.

The American Legion’s roots in baseball date back to 1926, when the first national tournament was played in Philadelphia with 16 states competing for the title. It was two years later that the Executive Council of Baseball underwrote American Legion Baseball, with Major League Baseball contributing $40,000 to the program each year.

Since its inception, legion baseball has seen many notable players, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, NBC journalist Tom Brokaw and former Major League Baseball players including Yogi Berra, Chipper Jones, Bob Feller and Dusty Baker, the former manager of the Washington Nationals.

According to the American Legion World Series website, more than half of all current MLB players played legion baseball in their youth, with more than 60 now in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Tickets for next week’s regional tournament are $7 per person per day.

The tournament opens Wednesday, with two doubleheaders—four games—starting 9:30 a.m. and at 4 p.m. The schedule will be repeated Thursday.  On Friday, three games are scheduled at noon, 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.. Saturday’s games will be at 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. The championship game is set for 1 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 12.

pszabo@loudounnow.com

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