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Madison American Legion’s Varsity Baseball players for 2023 are Ben Neil, front from left, Bryce Burnham, William Johnson and Gage Molina. Coach Philip Burnham, back from left, Jay Neil, Alex Cook, William Bibb, Matt Kula, Joseph Waxmonsky, Jonas Duggar, Ethan Hotz, Noah Mezenberger, Jake Ridley, Tucker Freeman, Coach Andy Kula and Coach Phil Hotz. CONTRIBUTED

American Legion baseball savors winning and learning the game

MADISON – This season, American Legion, Post 229 gave 38 individuals the opportunity to play competitive baseball against other Alabama American Legion teams.

“These athletes otherwise might not have had the opportunity to play,” Larry Vannoy said. Vannoy serves as Commander of Post 229 and for Madison County.

“We keep our costs low to provide them with the ability to get some game time, improve their baseball skills, impart some knowledge of the game and have an appreciation for the history of the game and our nation,” Vannoy said.

“We’ve had 14 American Legion baseball teams representing Madison American Legion since we began five years ago and covering three age-group leagues: Junior Varsity, Varsity and 19U,” Vannoy said.

Founded in 1925, the baseball league continues to promote the traditional values upon which it was organized. American Legion Baseball has taught hundreds of thousands of young Americans the importance of sportsmanship, good health and active citizenship. (legion.org/baseball/history).

For 2023, Bob Jones High School provided homefield. “We play right after school gets out through the middle of July,” Vannoy said. “The Junior Varsity and Varsity leagues’ season concludes with a State of Alabama tournament. The 19U state winner moves forward to a multi-state regional tournament, the winner of which goes to the American Legion World Series.”

“The 19U team had 18 players representing 13 high schools across the Tennessee Valley,” American Legion Coach Bobby E. Lee Jr. said. Their record was “10-6 in the regular season (third in the league), won their last six games and finished third in the Alabama State Tournament in Tuscaloosa on July 21-24. Ten players signed to play baseball in college with two more preferred walk-ons.”

The Varsity team had 20 players from six high schools in the Madison County area. The team had 6-7 for the regular season and won six of the last eight games. They participated in the Varsity state tournament in Tuscaloosa on July 14-16.

Coaches also supporting these teams are Philip Burnham, Phil Hotz and Andy Kula.

Madison American Legion teams played these teams this season: Post 107, Leeds; Post 120, Franklin County; Post 31, Tuscumbia; Post 34, Tuscaloosa; Post 237, Huntsville; Post 555, Shelby County; Post 99, Perdido; Post 4, Cullman; Post 49, Ardmore; Post 11, Florence; and Post 70, Troy.

“We especially appreciate the coaches of the local high school programs who help us recruit players and especially Bob Jones and James Clemens high schools for the use of their facilities for games and practices,” Lee said.

Lee said he coaches for a simple reason – he enjoys it. “Interacting with these players and being able to impart some baseball knowledge is fun. The players are still hungry to learn and are looking for someone to help them along in their progression in the sport.”

“We also get to impart a few life lessons as well, like how to overcome adversity, how to persevere and work through obstacles. The heat is nothing for me compared to the players; they are the ones on a hot, humid Alabama Saturday who are putting in all the effort,” Lee said.

His coaching represents “giving back to the next generation so that they see an example of what they should do when they’re in my position in life in a few years,” Lee said.

For more information about baseball leagues, contact Lee by calling 931-865-5685 or emailing bobbyleejr01@gmail.com.

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