It predates Little League, one of the most popular forms of youth travel baseball, by 14 years. There are currently over 5,400 teams registered across all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico.
There were local teams throughout the area at one time, but many have dissolved due to veteran volunteers passing away and/or financial constraints. But, Hammond American Legion Post No. 3 of Blountville is revitalizing the 13-15-year-olds program for the 2019 season. The new team will be nicknamed the Patriots.
American Legion is much like a travel baseball team during the summer, except it involves much more than just playing around the diamond all summer.
“The kids work closely with the veterans in this area,” team general manager Doug Mancabelli said. “It’s a way of giving back to the community and is a great way of connecting people across generations.”
The baseball players in the past have appeared in the Kingsport Fourth of July parade, been a part of Veterans Day ceremonies and served Thanksgiving at the post.
The 13-15 year old division is not technically sanctioned as a division to qualify for the American Legion World Series held in Shelby, North Carolina, each fall, but it does provide a guideline for players looking to further their careers.
The only divisions sanctioned by the American Legion are 17U and 19U. Each year, the American Legion World Series for both divisions sanctioned by the Legion is nationally broadcast on ESPN.
For an extra incentive, when a team wins the American Legion World Series, they are presented their championship rings at a special ceremony held at Game 1 of the actual World Series in Major League Baseball. The league is much more popular across the Midwest, but the Southeast does provide a temperate climate for year-round baseball.
“Baseball is big around here with all the minor league teams in the Appalachian League,” said head coach Kevin Rasnick.
“We are actually working very closely with the Kingsport Mets to provide us with a game before one of their games next summer,” Mancabelli said. “The biggest problem we have right now is getting fields to play on.”
The post recently dropped the 19U program in an effort to minimize expenses for players, parents and followers. Mancabelli and Rasnick say that most of the tournaments for the 13-15 year olds will be local or to within a couple of hours with some possible big trips on the horizon.
Legion baseball season begins in early June and runs until the end of August. The tradition-rich program with Hall of Fame names like Yogi Berra, Ted Williams, Frank Robinson, Chipper Jones and Sparky Anderson.
Other famed names to be American Legion alumni include former Vice President Dick Cheney, author and journalist Tom Brokaw and former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
American Legion Hammond Post No. 3 baseball officials said they would like to thank Kingsport Parks and Recreation, the Kingsport Times News and the Kingsport Mets for all of the help so far.
For more information, call Mancabelli at 423-323-8334 or Rasnick at 423-335-9005.