Jun. 16—For years and years, American Legion baseball was as big of a part of summer as drive-ins and a tire swing at the swimming hole. In most small towns, if you had an American Legion Post, you had a team.
However with the rise of the AAU/travel culture that permeates so much of sports today, American Legion baseball seems a little nostalgic. It has been over a decade since the team was on steady footing, as the program has started and stopped several times for various reasons.
But Legion ball is back — at least in Washington. Legion Post 121 is again sponsoring baseball and former Hatchet and USI standout Austin Moody will be leading his team into 2021 — this time as a manager.
Moody is just about six weeks away from his final at bat at USI and he is ready for his first coaching experience.
"I played for Washington when I was a sophomore and then for Princeton. We started a junior team two years ago, but the pandemic canceled last year," said Moody. "When I was playing there were some powerhouses in our area. Now, a lot of those are not even having teams this year. Evansville Funkhouser does have a team but Evansville Pate has only a junior Legion team and Princeton which the team, I played on and won state a couple times, they don't even have a team this year."
Post 121 will draw on talent from all around Daviess County. The core of the team will include a lot of players from the 2021 Hatchets, including Trey Reed, Joah Horrall, Isaac Barnard, Ian Hill, Jack Fry, Nick Sandullo, Caleb Armstrong and Miguel Cruz. Other top performers from around the area who will be playing include Jaylen Mullen and Jared Craven of North Daviess, Luke Nonte and Jordan Wildman of Loogootee, Robert Hostetler of Barr-Reeve, along with several from Knox County too.
"We have a kid named Cole Jones from North Knox. He's a really good player and he had a really good weekend for us to start the year. He pitched for us and played outfield, but he can literally play every position on the field," said Moody.
Moody said that he has a lot of flexibility with his team.
"We have kids doing a lot of things in the summer. A lot of our kids work summer jobs, a lot of them have AAU basketball for their high school. So one day we may have a starting nine that looks really solid. The next day, we're going have another solid starting nine that is completely different with six different players on the field but is just as solid," he added. "Right now, we have six scheduled home games. We're looking to add more. We may have a round-robin coming up with Danville and Newburg. We're going to try to get that scheduled at our field, so it'll be about half and half, we're looking to play about 16 to 18 games so we can afford a couple rain outs and then we'll be ready for the tournament."
In Legion ball, teams generally play 9-inning games (seven for doubleheaders) and the level of talent is generally better than high school.
"I would say obviously college is the most advanced but Legion is a solid ground between high school and the next level. You've got players that could be freshmen in college but you've also got each team of the area's best players playing for you along with some very good juniors," said Moody.
"Caleb Armstrong catches for us. When he came back from playing Junior Legion, he ended up as one of Washington's best hitter afterward. I think Robert Hostetler will be a better catcher too after spending time catching Trey (Reed) who throws a very 'heavy' ball. It will help him at Barr-Reeve next year."
Moody said that one thing that separates Legion from other forms of summer baseball is the cost. Each player pays about $80, while the local Legion Post helps defray other costs.
"It's very reasonable, some travel teams cost as much as $2,000 a summer," said Moody.
All though Moody hasn't been in the coach box long, he does hope that this experience will help him in the future.
"It was kind of hard on Sunday (in their first two games). Every time I was walking to the third base coaches box, I would stop behind home and I would watch their ball come in and thinking, 'well, it's not quite what I was seeing but I would like to try to hit off that.' We know we have a good team. Right now we want to play well and work on getting to nationals," he added.