Hosts with the most: Post 295
Legion team focuses on more than just defending title
The event began Friday and was to conclude with Tuesday's championship game, which ended too late to be included in this edition. But before the first pitch was thrown at the University of Maryland's Shipley Field, Price knew all the extra work was worth it.
"It's exciting for me," said Price. "The first morning, the first two teams walked in — Wicomico [Post 64] and LaPlata [Post 82] — and the kids' eyes light up. They were excited to play on the field. I knew then this was the right place. It made the tournament for me. I think they're having a blast. How often do you get to play on an ACC field?"
Post 295, the only American Legion Post to host a Maryland state tournament without its own home field, secured Shipley with the cooperation of the former Terrapins baseball staff. That commitment was upheld despite a coaching change from Terry Rupp to Erik Bakich, who has since offered Shipley Field on a permanent basis.
"The ex-coach, Terry Rupp, was the first one to get it started and Jeremy Menna [Maryland's Director of Grounds] has done the leg work for the whole tournament," Price said.
The whole Post 295 community has also chipped in to help run the five-day, eight-team tournament. Players' parents help manage the concession stand and ticket sales each day, going late into the night because of rain and lengthy games.
Sharing the day-to-day operations duties with Price is Montgomery County Commander Bob Ouellette of Post 295. Ouellette produced the tournament program, announced lineups for most games and used his grill to cook up hot dogs for the concession stand.
"To be able to host two state tournaments in a relatively short time [the other in 2003 at Shirley Povich field] is a pretty big honor," Ouellette said. "They felt well enough of us to allow us to have it again. … The hardest thing is getting people out to volunteer their time, but we're very appreciative of those volunteers that have come out for the tournament."
Besides concession and ticket duties, Gaithersburg Post 295 is also responsible for housing and feeding teams from 50 miles or more away, in this case, Wicomico Post 64 and Cumberland Post 13.
As part of the festivities, former Washington Senators Jim Coates and Chuck Hinton threw out the first pitch before Post 295's game against Gaithersburg Post 104 on Friday night.
Coates pitched for the New York Yankees from 1956-1962. The '56 team, which defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers for the World Series title, included Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Phil Rizzuto and Don Larsen. Hinton played 11 years for the Senators, Cleveland Indians and California Angels.
Gaithersburg Post 295 received a temporary charter on April 15, 1983, and that same year, Price began the baseball program. Post 295 earned permanent status on December 7, 1984, and captured its first county championship in 1990. Gaithersburg has since won nine county crowns and three state championships, in 2003, '04 and '08.