The proud tradition of American Legion baseball is alive and striving on the field and under the lights of Bellevue.
Rob Kohls a local businessman and veteran has taken on the task of organizing the team this year. He was proud to say that the team will have a new home field at the Bellevue Sports Athletic Association on McPherson Drive.
The team will represent the American Legion Post 5, of Nashville, one of the largest post in Tennessee.
“The boys are excited and the coaches are excited,” Kohls said.
He is no stranger to the BSAA. He served as both president and treasurer of the association in the past.
“I was a basketball player, but my kids wanted to play baseball, so I coached,” Kohls said, explaining he believed baseball helped teach his kids important lessons.
“It teaches the kids the right things to do. Character builds a good team. It takes attitude and heart and coming together as a team,” he said, adding that those are lessons that can be carried with you the rest of your life.
American Legion Baseball was founded on similar beliefs in 1925. On it’s website, the Legion states that the baseball program has taught hundreds of thousands of young Americans the importance of sportsmanship, good health and active citizenship.
It is also a promoter of equality, making teammates out of young athletes regardless of their income levels or social standings.
American Legion Baseball has been, and continues to be, a stepping stone to manhood for millions of young men who have gone on to serve their country or community, raise families or play the sport at the highest level.
The idea of the American Legion organizing a baseball program was first introduced in 1925 at a national convention.
A keynote speaker, Maj. John L Griffith, who was the collegiate commissioner of the Western Conference (now the Big 10), spoke about the role athletics can play in the development of youth.
“The American Legion could well consider the advisability of assisting in the training of young Americans through our athletic games,” Griffith said, adding athletic competition teaches courage and respect for others, fostering their growth into active citizens.
The convention agreed and passed a resolution urging the Legion to create an organized summer baseball league. And Legion baseball was born.
In 1926, posts in 15 states began to make the dream a reality. They organized and sponsored teams, drafted local schedules and conducted championship tourneys.
Postseason tournaments at the state, sectional and regional levels culminated with a national championship. Only a few changes have been made to that original design.
Today, 64 teams play at eight regional sites, with eight teams going on to the World Series.
Legion Baseball survived the Great Depression, World War II and many other hardships over the years. It has gained the sponsorship of Major League Baseball, and many other corporate partners that help keep expenses reasonable for those who participate.
Former players include Yogi Berra, Ted Williams, Frank Robinson and Roy Campanella. Modern day players Ryne Sandberg, Greg Maddux, Chipper Jones and Albert Pujols all competed on Legion teams.
So did this writer, a member of the Post 264 Legion team from Tonawanda, NY in 1975 and 76.
The local team will be managed by Jeff Demonbreun. The assistant coach is John Armstrong.
They have nine returning members from last year’s team and added 5 new players already this year. They come from Hillwood, McGavok and Franklin High Schools.
The coaches will be looking to fill the remaining five roster spots from schools across the region.
The team will once again host the Music City Wood Bat Classic at the BSAA ballpark June 18-21.
Kohls is assigned the task of looking for corporate sponsors to help pay for the cost of travel and equipment.
Anyone interested in helping should contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Legion Baseball Lives On in Bellevue