Archive for Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Legion baseball changing

Lawrence team to focus on fundamentals, play fewer games — and not be pay-to-play

October 14, 2009


American Legion baseball, a summer staple in Lawrence for decades, has a new look. Make that an old look.

“We want to go back to old times,” said Sam Dixon, chair of the Legion Post 14 baseball committee.

Basically, that means more emphasis on fundamentals, fewer games and, most important, no more pay-to-play provision.

Last summer’s Legion players were docked $750 apiece, with the bulk of that money going for travel and accommodations at numerous weekend tournaments.

“That’s terrible to charge $750 for each kid to play,” Dixon said.

Dixon believes the local post will be able make up the deficit by playing fewer games and by placing more emphasis on its annual fundraiser, a March pancake feed.

“All of us on the committee are committed to raising $7,000,” Dixon said. “Last year we raised about $5,500.”

It’s no secret Legion baseball has suffered with the emergence of so-called select or traveling teams in Topeka, Olathe and Overland Park.

“Some of those kids on select teams have to pay $1,000 to $2,000 to play,” Dixon said. “To me, that’s not what Legion baseball is all about.”

Consequently, the Legion post has opted not to compete with the select teams, but to offer summer baseball to those who, in effect, can’t afford to pay to play and/or prefer more of a learning experience.

Brian Wyatt, who has experience coaching youth baseball and bowling teams, has been appointed head coach. He’ll be assisted by Dan Rea, who has worked with youth baseball and football teams in the past.

“Every kid will have an opportunity to play through open tryouts,” Wyatt said. “We also plan to have fewer games, with more time for instruction.”

Last summer’s Legion team played 43 games, mostly in weekend tournaments. Next summer’s schedule will contain tournaments, Wyatt said, but not as many.

Both Wyatt and Rea concede this new Legion baseball philosophy may not fly, at least not at first.

“It will be hard to compete for the top kids,” Rea said, “because of the select-team mentality.”

Nevertheless, the Legion baseball committee is determined to stick with this back-to-the-future approach.

“We want to make people aware they can get here what they’re leaving town for now,” Wyatt said.

In the meantime, the Legion baseball committee is eager for feedback. Dixon can be reached at 842-9210, Wyatt at 423-0919 and Rea at 760-6161.


Kash_Encarri 8 years, 8 months ago

Ouch, baseball in Lawrence has hit a new low.

dougmarshall 8 years, 8 months ago

What kids are going to play on this team? I think it is great when community members want to help kids, but are the kids going to be better off being coached by a D-I coach (Kilmer) or by volunteers? Again, kudos to volunteers, but if you are 16 or 17 and don't know the fundementals yet, it may be too late. Fundementals should be taught at 6, not 16 and by qualified coaches. Also, no offense to the two volunteers, but are they "baseball" guys? I love baseball and to help kids, but I wouldn't know the first thing about teaching a 16 year old how to steal second or showing a pitcher a fake-to-third-go-to-first move. For a town that has two outstanding high school programs, this seems like a step backward.

Rafael Sanchez 8 years, 8 months ago

if im correct in the two volunteers, they are two good "baseball" guys who have coached some of the kids on the two high school programs now.

jtop 8 years, 8 months ago

Rafael2142 says "if im correct..." It would/should be pretty easy to check if you are correct or not. I believe that you are wrong. Also, maybe you can define your term "good" (as in, "good baseball guys" and "That's good news!!") for us.

headstrong 8 years, 8 months ago

rafael... you may as well get your facts straight here. they are baseball guys in terms of enjoyment, not of knowledge. the raiders, a storied tradition for lawrence and for baseball in the midwest has taken a huge hit. as a past raider, i am disgusted with this decision

Clickker 8 years, 8 months ago

All I can say is Wow!!!

Make that ,,,Wow!?

Rafael Sanchez 8 years, 8 months ago

Isn't enjoyment the key factor for KIDS playing baseball?

Legion baseball as a whole in area has taken a hit, mostly due to the abundance of "travel" or "all-stars" teams.

My post if it being good news, is the fact baseball should be available to all types of kids, not just the ones that can afford to pay the high costs of recent years.

Baseball has been an everyman's game that allowed all walks of life to play, and I for one am glad that someone in this town is ready to return to that level.

Im not here to get in a pissing match with anyone, just stating my opinion.

Kash_Encarri 8 years, 8 months ago

Rafael - interesting explanation you have for this being good news given that Mr. Wyatt's son has been one of those playing on the travel teams since he was 12 or 13.

Doug - there really is a need to teach fundamentals, and kids that are 16-17 need that instruction every bit as much as the 8-10 year-old. Really all you have to do is look at the Kansas City Royals to realize that going back to the fundamentals could provide instant improvement.

The question then is if Bryan and Dan are the people that can accomplish this goal. Both KNOW what is needed in order to have the fundamentals improve, but I don't believe either of them will relate well enough with the players to accomplish this goal. A certain level of respect is needed, and I don't know if either of them will command (maybe earn would be a better choice of words) enough of that to get there.

Good luck to both of you. For the kids sake, I hope it all works out.

Rafael Sanchez 8 years, 8 months ago

Let me clarify for everyone, because evidently i didn't spell it out enough. To me the good news is that Legion Baseball is going to revert to an old school style, and hold tryouts for the youth of Lawrence to participate.

I could care less who coaches it, as long as he has the kids best interest at heart, and is teaching them to continue to love the great game of baseball, and can show them a thing or two to help them play at some other level of ball(high school, Juco, MABL, whatever).

I personally dont know either of the coaches, but i have seen them at the ball diamonds, when im there coaching my kids, so i appologize to anyone who was offended that i consider them good baseball guys. Everyone i have talked to that knows them, has never had a bad word to say. So again if that makes people upset that they have decent reputations amongst the parents i have talked to, I am truly sorry!

And doug, i have to agree with Kash, Fundamentals have to be gone over at every Level, not just DCABA aged kids.

headstrong 8 years, 8 months ago

Rafael, perhaps you need to direct your opinions elsewhere. There used to be 5 legion teams for kids of all ages and talents that played varying schedules. For the longest time, the raiders have been the highest level of talent of all the ages. It worked as a farm system where you would work your way up and on the way the competition would get tougher as you continued to play. Kansas kids are already at a disadvantage since they only get to play 20 regular season games in a high school season. For those wanting to compete at the next level, playing against better competition and in front of people is what gets you where you need and want to go. Players are not going to get better playing against horrible competition, you get better by playing the best day in and day out. That's why programs like ku football get bashed. Arethey good or have they just played northern Colorado? And, compared to what it costs to play $750 is reasonable for all the travelling and venues the raiders play at. This past summer they got to play at Missouri, ku, Kansas state, and Wichita state. And had the opportunity to play in their 7th straight Kansas American legion championship game of which they've won 4. Don't expect any postseason success or greatly developing abilities anytime soon with this new "style"

Rafael Sanchez 8 years, 8 months ago


I am aware of the different level of Legion ball. Just as i remember when the Holcom league was tryout based as well.

And as a kid who moved here from NY I know all about the disadvantages of playing in cold weather areas.

All im saying is that its a step in the right direction. Maybe someone else (maybe from this board, since apparently we have some great baseball minds, who wouldnt mind giving up their free time to help the youth of Lawrence get better at baseball) could contact the Legion and bring back one of the higher level teams.

Kash_Encarri 8 years, 8 months ago

You're a good man Rafael. I've seen you work with the kids on the baseball field. I know your heart is in the right place on this issue. There are a lot of people in this town willing to help those players less fortunate continue to enjoy the game of baseball.

I've put the last 12 years into coaching kids in this town, and I've seen a lot of good coaching along with a lot of bad coaching. These two have taken on a chore. This may end up helping the two high schools by keeping their teams together during the summer instead of splitting them to play in the legion program, but I definitely believe it will cause a once proud legion program to fall into an A or B class instead of the top class it has been in for the past 7-10 years.

hail2oldku 8 years, 8 months ago

I know Rafael and I think I know Kash.

Both of you have always put the kids before yourselves if I have the right people.

What Lawrence baseball needs is someone that can unify the whole thing, without pricing it out of player's/families' reach. This deal that the Legion is doing is an interesting concept, but I don't think it will fly. Something along the lines of the old legion program, in association with the high school programs and some benefactors like Pat Walmsley, James Becker, Bryan Wyatt (sorry Bryan not as a coach), Dale Willey and Bob Wertz, that is the key to developing players and keeping the cost down.

dougmarshall 8 years, 8 months ago

Kash_Encarri - I agree, fundementals go all the way to MLB. At the high shcool level, they are refreshed every day in practice without sacraficing the number of games being played. Summer should be about playing and getting better through repetitions in game situations, not about trying to re-learn how to field a fly ball. Sure they should work on those things, but two volunteers shouldn't spend a summer teaching it at the expense of game situations. And who knows, maybe they will teach them things Coaches Hill and Stoll don't like.

Rafael Sanchez 8 years, 8 months ago

I appreciate the kind words from Kash and Hail. The only reason to get involved in youth sports is to give the kids a positive experience.

My Role Model in both sports and life philosophy said it best.. ''Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don't, then you are wasting your time on Earth.'' --Roberto Clemente

I really hope this step jumpstarts Lawrence baseball, yeah it may take a year or two to get back to the once proud level of Legion Past(my brother played, and I loved watching his games), but something is better then nothing.

lhsmom 8 years, 8 months ago

So basically Legion is turning into a parks and rec baseball team for high school kids? It used to be that Legion was competitive and therefore worthy of a college coaches time to check out the talent. This change (backwards) will take away any credibility left for baseball in Lawrence. If a player wants to play beyond high school they need to get noticed by colleges during summer ball. Why is this town so affaid of competition and excellence?

headstrong 8 years, 8 months ago

I agree with lhs mom. Now kids who want to play the heavy competitive style, which is most of the kids who will go on to play at the next level are now going to be forced to pay over a $1000 to play on a team out of the Kansas city area. Not to mention the drive to and from kc as opposed to paying $500-$750 to practice here in Lawrence and play for local coaches and with kids you grew up with.

lawrencedad 8 years, 8 months ago

How does making the game more affordable ruin the program?? I don't understand how "it is a new low" - or why the cost per player was as high as it was with the additional funding the Legion was providing.

Kash_Encarri 8 years, 8 months ago

"lawrencedad (Anonymous) says… How does making the game more affordable ruin the program?? I don't understand how “it is a new low” - or why the cost per player was as high as it was with the additional funding the Legion was providing."

Making it affordable doesn't necessarily ruin the program, but cutting the travel, play and tournaments does because it limits the competition and the exposure the players get to coaches at higher levels.

The new low I referred to is more about the coaching selection. Both are good men, who do have genuine care for the players development. Unfortunately I don't think they'll get the respect or the attention they'll need in order to accomplish what they want. I also don't think they'll attract the players needed to compete at the AAA Legion level which is where I believe the team has been. Those other players will go to Topeka or KC to play.

jayhawkjoeb 8 years, 8 months ago

Wow. This is a very big step backwards for Lawrence Legion Baseball. Sam Dixon wants to go back to the days of open tryouts and no cost for the kids. Why didn't he just implement that strategy with the existing coach? How does this move upgrade baseball in Lawrence?

We remove a coach who has been a head coach in college and served as the pitching coach for a college world series team and made his living teaching young men the fundamentals and nuances of the game for 30 years and replace him with a guy who fixes pilot lights for a living?

What youth sports has Wyatt coached other than the teams his kid is on? I have personally seen Wyatt thrown out of DCABA games as a coach and out of his son's elite traveling team (I guess he didn't have that mentality) games as a spectator. This is the man who is going to lead the community team back to greatness?

This is the same guy who has jumped his kid from team to team over the last ten years and has vocally undermined every other coach who has been in charge when he is not.

The legion team last year was one out away from going to the championship game. They lost to Pitt with a team that was missing six starters due to injury or family commitments. They showed guts and determination and made our town proud. Why the change now?

I suspect that Mr. Wyatt in his not so subtle way wiggled his way into the confidence of Sam Dixon (who he personally invited and drove to the state tournament) and convinced him of some agregious outrage or unfairness to the poor kids of Lawrence who had to endure the quality coaching and instruction from a real baseball professional. He would be honored to step into this role and coach his son and anyone else who happens to show up with his vast experience.

Good luck gaining support from Brad Stoll, Mike Hill, and Shaun Edmonson. They have their own summer programs and I would assume the first choice would be to coach these kids themselves and the next would be for the kids to get quality coaching from professionals.

I have no doubt that Bryan and Dan are commited to baseball and the kids experience but as a community we have better options available. This team has been coached in the past by Shaun Edmonson, Kevin Tucker, and Wilson Kilmer who are all baseball professionals. Why would Sam Dixon get rid of Wilson Kilmer and Lee Ice in the same year? These guys have more baseball knowledge and experience than anyone in town. What really happened?

Ricky_Vaughn 8 years, 8 months ago

Not just for the rich kids anymore? What REALLY happened?

LTownBaby 8 years, 8 months ago

Where's LHS Grandma on this one, everyone knows that's Wyatt! Maybe he can teach the kids how to hold a radar gun every pitch of every game so he looks important.

headstrong 8 years, 8 months ago

Solidly spoken by jayhawkjoeb and ltownbaby... Glad we share the same opinions. If this is happening "for the kids best interest" then removing a prior division 1 pitching coach and college all American and replacing him with Wyatt directly contradicts their goals. Hopefully Wilson can start up his own team and show the legion what kids really prefer. Experienced coaching and a high level of competition would be much higher on my list than a free team with no direction or leadership any day

lhsmom 8 years, 8 months ago

These kids are too old for "daddy coach" baseball anyway. What college coach is going to accept this as an option for their players in the summer? You have to compete in game situations against talented teams to get better at this age. Lawrence kids coming back will have to find teams elsewhere if they want to get better. If coach Kilmer has a desire to put together a team I wish him the best of luck. Too bad it will cost parents more because there will be no sponsorship money from Legion.

Ever wonder why the high school coaches seem to have been moving away from the Legion sponsored teams? Maybe now we have our answer...

OldBlue 8 years, 8 months ago

Some comments of clarity. First the $750 fee, or any fees of the past, were not mandatory. There were programs available to acquire sponsors or file for scholarships to fulfill the fee. However, no one elected to use these options and instead just payed the fee. Second, tryouts had became a thing of the past because coaches knew players abilities by watching them in the high school seasons or during the summer for the younger kids. Third, kids want to play more games in the summer and practice less. I could go on and on, but the simple fact is that the decision by the local American Legion post is not a good decision.

Another fact that most are not aware is that major sports television networks have attempted to acquire the rights to air American Legion Baseball regional and national tournaments, similar to the Little League World Series. The American Legion National Baseball Committee has refused these offers. If these offers were accepted, American Legion Baseball would have millions of dollars to sponsor teams, tournaments, etc. But instead, the national leadership thinks in the same manner as the local leadership "to do things the old way".

These are the reasons that American Legion Baseball is becoming a thing of the past. Sometimes doing things "the old way" is good, but in this case it is not.

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