|Edition No. 16||
August 2, 2011
With the 2011 campaign heading into August and approximately two-thirds of the contest now behind us, the Chiefs are employing some good medicine and look positioned to capture a second Hot Stove League crown in 2011. Having endured injuries to a couple of his stars (Pujols and David Wright) without missing a beat, if Baby Trumpetfish can continue to stay on the warpath for the final third of the season, B.T. promises resplendent war bonnets for everyone as their championship gift apparel.
The standings through games of Sunday, July 31, are as follows:
Sadly, the sickly Senators appear destined for a third consecutive cellar finish, as the Baseball Gods have continued to wreak havoc with my players and their performances, with my bench jockeys routinely amassing gobs of points for my reserve squad. Since the only teams that seem to be able to compete in our league are the ones with American Indian nicknames, vis-à-vis the Chiefs, Tribe and Wahoos, perhaps next season the Senators will be flying under a different flag, such as the Redskins, Braves, Savages or Fighting Squaws. Hey, it couldn’t hurt.
AND SMALLTOWN, AMERICA
As we near the end of the 2011 Legion baseball season, with the Mount Michael Senior Squad competing at Class C State in Creighton, Nebraska, I can’t say enough great things about Mount Michael Benedictine, Legion baseball, and the chance for the boys to compete on the baseball fields of Smalltown, America. The experiences that Joe and Will and their classmates and teammates at Mount Michael have had couldn’t be scripted any better. First and foremost, Mount Michael Benedictine is a fantastic preparatory school, with entering classes numbering between 55 and 65 students, and opportunities for all of the boys to compete academically and athletically with like-minded students. It is also truly a family affair, as reflected in the following article which appeared in Saturday’s Omaha World Herald:
Mount Michael baseball keeping it all in family
Elkhorn Mount Michael can trace its American Legion baseball success this summer in part to its band of brothers.
The Knights have five sets of brothers, Zach and Mark Loeffelholz; Graham and Kevin Jewell; Robert and Chris Thomas; Joe and Will Ernst; and Clayton and Jackson Taylor, who compete either on the senior team or the junior team — or both.
Those family bonds are one reason why Mount Michael is back competing for the Class C Senior Legion state title. The eight-team tournament begins Saturday at Creighton, Neb.
"We do have a lot of brothers competing in baseball, and they've played a big part in our success," Brent Suing said. "All our boys have played well this summer."
Suing has coached the Legion team the past three years and guided the Knights in their only two seasons of varsity play. Mount Michael was 18-5 in the spring while competing in the state tournament for the second straight year. The Knights followed that up with a 29-7 mark in the summer.
"Adding varsity baseball has been good for us," he said. "Our guys can learn a lot more playing in games instead of just hitting in the batting cages."
Clayton Taylor and Tim Carlson — who just finished his freshman year at Doane College — lead the team with .480 batting averages. But Suing said it's the team's pitching that has been the key to success.
"Our team ERA has been under 2.00 all season," the coach said. "And we've got seven guys with at least three wins, so that gives us a lot of depth."
Mount Michael will be making its fifth Legion state tournament appearance and third in the past four years after capturing the Area C-3 tourney. The Knights finished third at state last season, losing to Creighton in a semifinal game.
Wakefield won Class C in 2010 but did not qualify this year, losing twice to Pender (22-4) in the Area C-2 tourney.
The double-elimination tournament runs through Wednesday. The Class C state champion then will advance to play one final game at the home field of the Class B champion on Aug. 6.
While I have nothing but fond memories from my own high school years at Lincoln Northeast, knowing what I know now I would have jumped at the opportunity to attend a school like Mount Michael. It will be interesting to hear what Joe and Will have to say about their Mount Michael experience ten or fifteen years from now, but I have to believe that it will be laced with glowing memories.
As for the baseball part of it, while both boys thoroughly enjoyed the spring baseball season, there is something about the American Legion summer experience, at least at the Class C level, which is remarkable, to say the least. To be able to travel around to small towns across Nebraska and play baseball against teams composed of sons of farmers and ranchers is truly something to behold. The pride that these small communities take in their baseball fields and their local teams is estimable, and the hospitality shown to the visiting teams is praiseworthy.
Hershey Field, Hersey, Nebraska
Will’s Junior Legion team recently returned from Hershey, Nebraska, twelve miles west of North Platte, where they finished in fourth place in the Class C Junior Legion tournament, competing against teams from Crofton, Hershey, Sutherland, Sutton and several consolidated teams from different communities. Hershey is a town of about 600 people, with a steakhouse, a bar (“The Bar”), a country western apparel store, and a few other businesses, such as hardware and feed stores, to support their farming and ranching industries. They have a beautiful little baseball field which is tended with loving care, and virtually the entire town supports the state baseball tournament. For example, if a player on any team hit a triple, he won a cheeseburger and fries from Butch’s Steakhouse, and a double won a competitor a root beer float, or some other teenager’s delight.
Anderson Field, West Point, Nebraska
The Senior boys just finished up with their C-3 district tournament in West Point, Nebraska, played at Anderson Field, where the refurbished train station sits just beyond the right field fence and a beautiful white church with a picture-book steeple is situated hard past the center field corner. Although the aged grandstand is showing its age, the Legionnaires and other town folk spruced it up for the tournament and proudly showed it off to their guests from Elkhorn, Yutan, Dodge, North Bend and Logan View, among others. Smells of hamburgers and rats being cooked outside the concession stand wafted through the grandstand and enticed scores of hungry fans to leave their perches and stroll to the concession stand for the good eats.
ANDERSON FIELD, WEST POINT, NEBRASKA
The ballpark in Creighton, Nebraska, a Knox County community of about 1300 people, is presently host to the Senior Legion Class C baseball tournament, where the Ernest Jacobs American Legion Post No. 74 provides the manpower behind this year’s state tournament, dished out in equal parts of elbow grease and affection. In this baseball-mad community, the Creighton Baseball Association proudly shows off its carefully-manicured Greg Paesl Memorial Field at Radosti Park. The entrances to this little green jewel are adorned by red brick pillars which are reminiscent of those at the Ballpark in Arlington and at Camden Yards, on a very small scale.
Radosti Park, Creighton, Nebraska
Each American Legion tournament game begins with an introduction of the nonstarters and then the starting players, who line up on their respective base paths for the taking of the American Legion baseball pledge:
I Will Keep The Rules.
I Will Keep Faith with my Teammates.
I Will Keep my Temper.
I Will Keep myself Fit.
I Will Keep a Stout Heart in Defeat.
I Will Keep my Pride under in Victory.
I Will Keep a Sound Soul, a Clean Mind, & a Healthy Body.
Once completed, the crowd is asked to stand and the gentlemen to remove their hats for the playing or singing of the National Anthem, followed by the customary chant of “Play ball!”
Although a lot of the small town American Legion baseball teams are a bit short on physical talent, and many of them do not have the benefit of a spring school baseball season, the teams are uniformly well-coached and disciplined, and each and every one of them know how to play “small ball,” employing the sacrifice bunt and the hit-and-run to manufacture runs for their teams. The vast majority of the players are well-mannered, respectful of the coaches, umpires and opposing players, and respectful of the game itself. Not a single Jeffrey “Penitentiary Face” Leonard “Flaps-Down” home run trot to be found in the bunch.
In short, pure, genuine, youth baseball at its finest.
The Mount Michael Seniors began their run at the state tournament with a bang, putting a whupping on the boys from Hartington by a score of 11-0, a game shortened by the run rule to five innings. With this win, the Knights advanced to the winners’ bracket semifinals against the Alma 9 in a Sunday evening matchup at the illuminated Radosti Park.
Radosti Park, Creighton, Nebraska
The Knights put on a hitting display against Alma, dispatching them by a score of 13-1, in another game shortened to five innings.
Last night, in the winners’ bracket final game against Pender—a game expected to be a real nail-biter—the confident Knights bunched together eight runs in the fourth inning to blow open a 2-0 game, sailing to a 10-0 win in five innings. This was the third consecutive 1-hitter hurled by the Mount Michael moundsmen.
Tonight, the Knights face David City, and then it is on to tomorrow night’s game for the State Championship. Go Knights!