American Legion National Commander Brett Reistad has been a member of the Legion for 39 years, active at the post, department and national level before being sworn in as the Legion’s top official last August.
He’ll spend the next five days on The American Legion Legacy Run, at times a passenger on the back of a bike. At American Legion Post 347 in Lady Lake, Fla. – the starting off point of the ride and the host of its kickoff event on Aug. 17 – Reistad expressed his appreciation for the American Legion Riders and what they do.
“This is something … not to mention what the parking lot looks like,” said Reistad, referencing the 200-plus motorcycles that already had checked in at the post. “I have so looked forward to this moment. I want to take a moment and let you know how much the American Legion Riders mean to this organization and what you’re doing with this Run, how much it means to the children of those who have given their lives to our country and those who are severely disabled as a result of their service to our country. I’m honored to be able to participate in this.”
The kickoff ceremony followed a dinner and included post and state Legionnaires, as well as praise from public officials.
Post 347 Commander Bob Kiley said while the post is used to large crowds, “you Riders hit a home run. And when this is all over, we want to know that everybody got up (to Indianapolis), did the best for the children and got back safely. You will be in all our prayers.”
Department of Florida Commander Rick Johnson will be following along with the ride via a car, though he said it’s possible he may ride on the back of a Florida Legion Riders’ trike. He also shared his same passion for causes benefitting children; one of his commander’s project is supporting COTA, the nation’s only fundraising organization solely dedicated to raising life-saving dollars in honor of transplant-needy children and young adults.
“What we’re doing here, the awareness we can bring out there with the Riders and the (Legion Family) … I applaud you for what you do,” Johnson said.
The Riders also heard from Lady Lake Mayor Jim Richards, who proclaimed Aug. 17 in his town “American Legion Legacy Run Day.” And Sussan read letters of support and congratulations from U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, and U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster.
More than $100,000 was donated during the kickoff, including $55,000 from the Department of Maryland’s Gold Star Legacy Run, and a combined $22,464 from Post 347’s American Legion Family. With the money previously donated to the fund, more than $228,000 already has been raised for this year’s ride.
The results of the Riders’ efforts. More than 260 motorcycles will start the annual fundraiser for The American Legion Legacy Scholarship Fund, which provides college assistance for the children of U.S. military personnel killed on active duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001, as well as children of post-9/11 veterans with a combined VA disability rating of 50 percent or higher.
Past Department of Arkansas Commander Mike Westergren, chairman of the Legion’s National Committee on Youth Education, is accompanying the ride all five days. His committee is tasked with awarding American Legion Legacy Scholarships.
“It’s such an opportunity to actually meet the people that are responsible for doing something that has such an impact on those kids,” Westergren said. “I get to meet those kids. I get to see the change in the life that a Legacy Scholarship is able to have on them. I get to see the letters and the appreciation that comes from them because of those significant scholarships that come from the efforts of this group and all the Riders across our nation. You have made such a difference in the lives of so many.”
Verlin’s legacy continues. Just prior to the 2018 Legacy Run, 11-time Legacy Run participant and co-planner of the ride with Chief Road Captain Bob Sussan, was killed in a motorcycle accident. His wife Margaret accompanied the ride, which was dedicated to Verlin.
A year later, at Post 347, Verlin was not only there in spirit, but in gear. Margaret had three boxes of motorcycle gear that she and Verlin used brought down to Florida, where she made it available to anyone who could use it.
“There are people who cannot afford to gear up the way we felt it was important to do to be safe. We always road with complete gear: jackets, pants, boots, gloves, the whole thing,” Margaret said. “Rather than have it just sit there, we thought we’d bring it here and have the opportunity for people who could use it to take it on now (and) ride safer. The idea was that, also, Verlin would continue to ride.”
Verlin’s legacy also will continue on American Legion National Headquarters’ fourth floor, where the Emil A. Blackmore Museum resides. His vest will become part of an American Legion Riders exhibit there.
“It’s an amazing honor, knowing that people will be able to see (the vest) and see how much it meant to him to be a part of The American Legion, part of his post – China Post 1 was very dear to him,” Margaret said. “It took something off my shoulders that I found a home for it. And I know his family will be thrilled to have it in a place of honor.”
Von Abbott, Verlin’s brother and commander of MacDougall-Lowe Post 20 in Kirksville, Mo., also will ride the final leg of the ride – and the final ride Verlin helped Sussan plan. Marilyn said Verlin and Sussan already had begun planning the 2019 Legacy Run prior to his death.
“This is really an ultimate honor for (Von),” Marilyn said.
Brothers and sisters. In 2018, Arkansas Legionnaire Bob Couch lost his wife and was, in his own words, “on hard times and was having a real hard time being able to lay my wife to rest.”
But his fellow American Legion Riders rallied around Couch, commander of Post 24 in Blytheville. “My brothers and sisters in this room took care of that (financially),” he said. “For that, you have my undying love and my undying dedication forever and ever. You’ve shown what it is to be a family. You’ve shown what it means to be brothers and sisters. Thank you all.”
No nerves, just excitement. Department of Indiana Southern Assistant American Legion Riders Director Jeff Everman is taking part in his first Legacy Run. A member of Sons of The American Legion Squadron 64 in Indianapolis – where the ride will finish up – Everman has been riding motorcycles since he was 10 but just started with the Legion Riders five years ago.
He’s fully immersed himself in the program. “I’m riding every weekend one somebody’s charity ride,” Everman said. “Everybody that I have met in The American Legion … their hearts are in the right place. Everything we do is to benefit groups and for the veterans. Everything about this organization I support any way I can.”
Everman said there isn’t any apprehension about taking part in a ride with more than 200 other motorcycles. “It’s going to be awesome. I have no fear of this at all,” he said. “I’ve had every kind of bike you can imagine. Hopefully (the Run) will be something I do every year until I die.”
A model of efficiency. American Legion Post 347, the largest post in the world, is used to large crowds. And it showed. The hundreds of Riders, passengers and other kickoff attendees went through a serving line of spaghetti and meatballs, salad and bread in less than 30 minutes.
Those in attendance marveled at both the speed in which Post 347’s kitchen volunteers moved and the hospitality provided. That reaction brought a smile to face of American Legion Riders Chapter 347 Director Gene Haplea, who marveled at the Legion Family volunteers’ efforts.
“I can’t find the words for it,” Haplea said. “You can’t put a label on it. It’s one of those things that when you watch it unfold, you’re sitting there kind of incredulous that it’s happening. For us, because of what we put into it and what we were trying to achieve – to see it all come together … to see everybody coming in enjoying themselves – it’s just one of those things. You can’t say enough about it.”
Hosting the kickoff “exceeded everybody’s best expectation,” Haplea said. “We can’t believe we pulled it off.”
Track the Legacy Run and view videos from it here.
Destrehan, La., Post 366 batted around in consecutive innings, overcoming a late deficit for a resounding victory to stay perfect in pool play.
Behind by three on two different occasions, Destrehan ultimately was victorious over Albuquerque, N.M., Post 13 by a score of 14-6.
New Mexico hit the ball hard in the first inning but couldn’t find any holes. Kolby Bourgeois made one of the better defensive plays of the tournament to prevent a hit with a diving catch in shallow right field after charging in hard.
There were no hits by either team over the first two innings, but that didn’t stop Louisiana from threatening in the bottom of the second. The first two batters walked, but Javier Almager forced a ground ball double play then got a pop out to end the inning.
With Gavin Freeman up in the third, Gavin Freeman grounded into a force out but beat the throw to first to allow Avery Schexnaydre to score the first run of the game.
Albuquerque made a lot of noise in the fourth, getting a leadoff single and then advancing runners with a walk then a single. With the bases loaded, Seth Casias walked to bring home a run and Roy Jennings brought home two more with a single to center. New Mexico capped the inning with one more run coming across via an RBI groundout and finished the top of the fourth with a 4-1 lead.
Destrehan got two back in the bottom of the fourth when Ron Franklin led off with a single and Kolby Bourgeois drilled a 2-1 pitch off the top of the scoreboard in right field.
"We needed a boost and I was able to give my team that boost," Bourgeois said.
New Mexico immediately responded with two runs push the edge back up to three in the fifth. Damien Roddy got the rally started with a one-out single after fouling off three pitches. Benito Garcia followed with a single and Brent Rigtrup lined a single to left field to bring home Roddy. Later in the inning, Seth Casias lined a two-out single into center to bring Garcia home.
The game turned in the bottom of the fifth as Destrehan brought 10 batters to the plate, turning a three run deficit into a three run advantage. The Southeast champions loaded the bases with a single and two walks to lead off the inning and Stephen Klein hammered a ground ball down the first base line into the corner for a bases clearing triple to tie the game. After a walk and a stolen base, Kolby McWilliams brought a pair home to take the lead and later TJ Thomas brought home McWilliams to make the lead 9-6.
In the sixth, Louisiana padded its lead with a pair of singles and a hit by pitch setting up Bourgeois with the bases loaded. The first baseman lined a single to right, adding two more runs. Stephen Powers followed and battled in the count before another line drive single to right scoring one more. Schexnaydre then cleared the bases with a double to the wall in right-center.
Being behind was nothing new to Louisiana, which faced deficits as large as 6-0 in the sixth inning in districts all the way through multiple walk-off wins in states and regionals.
"It is just how this team has played all summer," manager Danny Riehm said. "It has been a special group of competitors that play hard to the last out."
"It was an all-around total team effort," Bourgeois added. "With this team we are never out of the game."
Louisiana, which got hits from ten different players, will be the top seed in the Stars pool and advance to the semifinal on Monday, facing the runner-up from the Stripes pool at 4 p.m.
"We knew we had clinched the pool but this was the last on-field performance that would be in their minds before they play in the national semifinal," Riehm added. "Hopefully with 10 guys having hits they're feeling good about what they're doing at the plate."
New Mexico’s historic season ends as Post 13 became the first team from the state of New Mexico to reach the American Legion World Series.
This game was part of USAA Military Appreciation Day, which featured a Medal of Honor recipient and a parade of veterans on the field prior to the game.
Bourgeois was honored to be involved, saying, "To be here at a tournament that veterans are putting on for us, that is nationally televised, is a great honor. We appreciate everything that they have done so we can be here today. I just want to thank all of the veterans, especially my grandfather, for everything they have done for this country."
In a game with plenty of opportunities for both teams, it was Fargo, N.D., Post 2 which capitalized in a 4-1 victory over Randolph County, N.C., Post 45.
The offenses were busy early in this one with constant chances for both teams.
It only took three batters for Fargo to make an impact in the top of the first. After a single and an out, Cole Hage hit a bomb to dead center to put Fargo up early.
The first two batters for North Carolina reached with singles in the bottom of the frame, setting up a first-and-third situation. A flyball to shallow left field ensued and the runner strayed a bit too off of third on a fake tag up attempt. Third baseman Drew Sandy expertly cutoff the throw home by Zach Sandy and flipped to shortstop Zach Kluvers covering third base to put down the tag.
That was a crucial out to slow down North Carolina, as the Mid-Atlantic champions took advantage of an interference call and a double by Colby Hammer to score Trevor Marsh and halve the lead following the out at third.
North Carolina loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the second after a walk, single and a hit by pitch but Tyler Parret got a strikeout and a flyout to get out of trouble with the lead.
North Dakota loaded the bases with two singles and a walk in the top of the third, but Braxton Davis worked got a force to end the inning.
Fargo took advantage in the fourth with walks to Brandt Kolpack and Drew Sandy, both of whom came around on a Zach Sandy single.
North Carolina got a one-out walk and a single to left the bottom of the fourth but once again aggressive baserunning was costly as Zach Sandy hit Drew Sandy and the latter won a race to the third base bag to catch a runner trying to go first to third, stymying the threat.
“They hit out to me and my job was just to hit the cutoff man and on both plays I just hit the cut and we got two big out,” the left fielder said.
North Carolina put two in scoring position in the fifth but Parret got a huge strikeout to end the frame and his day. He finished with just the lone run allowed after scattering six hits over his five innings.
Fargo threatened in the sixth with two on, as well, but Hunter Hill came on in relief and worked out of trouble to keep the deficit just three.
Brayden Koenig nearly added to the Fargo lead with a shot to right field but just missed, hitting the wall for a double. One batter later, second baseman Tatum Marsh made a leaping grab to keep the score, 4-1.
Austin Manuel, who came on in relief for Parret, put the North Carolina offense down quietly in the sixth and seventh, allowing just one runner to finish off his save.
With this result, both teams are 1-1 going into the final day of pool play.
“We were locked in and focused and it was great to rebound,” Zach Sandy said.
The game was played as part of USAA Military Appreciation Day. Prior to the game, Medal of Honor recipient Hal Fritz addressed the crowd and met with the teams.
“It was really cool to hear the stories of what he did and it gave me goosebumps,” Zach Sandy continued. “The stories were humbling and I think it motivated some of us. It is great to see all of the veterans come out and support.”
North Dakota will look for a win at 4 p.m., Sunday against 0-2 Massachusetts. North Carolina will look to rebound in front of its home fans against 2-0 Idaho Sunday at 7 p.m.
Idaho Falls, Idaho Post 56 relied on its defense Saturday afternoon to move to 2-0 in pool play, topping Shrewsbury, Mass., Post 397, 4-0.
Idaho sent its ace Randon Hostert to the hill coming off of a record-setting performance in regionals where he pitched the first-ever recorded back-to-back no hitters in national tournament play and ended the Northwest tournament with 13.0 innings pitched, 19 strikeouts and just three runners allowed.
While Hostert wasn’t as dominating Saturday as he had been previously, he still pitched 3.2 scoreless innings thanks, in large part, to his defense.
The Utah commit gave up his first hit of national tournament play with two outs in the first inning but quickly got out of the inning as a diving play by first baseman Jaxon Sorenson who flipped to Hostert covering for third out.
“I knew the second baseman wouldn’t be in the hole so I had to do anything to make sure the ball didn’t get through to allow the runner to get to third,” Sorenson said.
Massachusetts worked deep counts and played small ball in the second to load the bases with one out, but Hostert caught a popup and then induced a slow ground ball that third baseman Caden Christensen charged and made a slick play on to throw to first to get the final out, earning appreciation from Hostert on the way to the dugout.
On the other side, John West started for Massachusetts and pitched well. He got into trouble in the bottom of the second, hitting a batter and allowing a single, but made a nice play himself on a grounder up the middle to get a force and a flyout to right to settle down. With two outs, however, Kai Howell deposited a single into right field to bring home Andrew Gregerson and put Idaho on the board. Idaho doubled its lead two batters later on a catchers interference call which scored Sorenson.
Hostert got help from his defense again in the third when Brody Owens charged a tough grounder, throwing across his body to get a tough out and the offense took advantage in the bottom of the frame with some small ball to add to the lead. Tavyn Lords bunted his way on and stole second before a sacrifice bunt moved him to third and a Gregerson single on a 2-0 count brought him home.
That was enough for Idaho pitching as Hostert went back out for two more outs in the third but was removed at 60 pitches to ensure he could return on Tuesday if Idaho Falls makes it to the title game. Bruer Webster came on in relief and the deceptive submariner needed just one pitch to get out of the fourth.
Massachusetts got a leadoff double and moved the runner to third with one out in the fifth inning, but Webster got a groundout to third and another nice defensive play from Sorenson, now playing second base, to end the inning on a tough popup in foul ground in shallow right field.
“We’re very versatile on defense and it shows,” Sorenson said. “In a game like this where the offense slumps we need to get outs.”
In the bottom of the sixth, Idaho’s Alex Cortez singled and came around on some mistakes to score to make the lead 4-0, padding the lead.
Webster got one out easily in the seventh but struggled with his location, loading the bases without a hit forcing Sorenson into the game in relief.
With the tying run at the plate, Sorenson battled to a full before ultimately getting a popout to left field for the second out and a groundout to third to end the game, earning Sorenson the save.
“After those batters had seen high velocity I knew my offspeed would keep them off balance,” Sorenson said. “Being 2-0 is amazing. We just need to keep energy up.”
The game was the opening contest of USAA Military Appreciation Day at the ballpark.
Idaho moves to 2-0 in pool play and has North Carolina on Sunday night in the final game of pool play at 7 p.m. Massachusetts falls to 0-2 and faces North Dakota Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m.
Building on the momentum of a 12-1 win on Thursday, Destrehan, La., Post 366 put forth another dominating performance to move to 2-0 in pool play and clinch advancement in the American Legion World Series.
Louisiana topped Festus, Mo., Post 253 in Friday’s nightcap, 9-1.
Both teams threatened in the first inning, putting runners in scoring position.
Jacob Melton induced a groundout to end the top of the first inning threat by Louisiana and Cory Cook worked out of trouble with a full count strikeout with runners on second and third in the bottom of the frame ending the Missouri chance.
A pair of walks put a Louisiana runner in scoring position in Kolby Bourgeois and Stephen Powers brought him home with a groundball single that just found its way through the middle for a hit. A hit batter and a pair of back-to-back wild pitches scored two more to extend the lead to 3-0.
Louisiana broke the game open in the fourth with six runs in the top of the frame.
The first four batters reached base all without the ball leaving the infield. Gavin Freeman laced one up the middle and Nick Lorio followed with one through the left side to bring home one and two runs, respectively. Both came around to score two batters later on a Ron Franklin single.
Festus put together a few hits in the bottom of the fifth but aggressive baserunning was costly as the prospective first run of the game was gunned out trying to score from second on a single by a strong throw from Nick Lorio to keep the score 9-0.
“I wasn’t trying to do too much, I just wanted to have my teammates’ backs,” Lorio said of his two big innings.
Stephen Klein came on in relief for Cook in the fifth as the starter pitched four scoreless and allowed only four hits.
“It feels awesome pitching when your offense is hitting like this and your defense is playing like this,” Cook said.
In the bottom of the seventh, Festus finally did some damage as Eddie Martin took a 2-1 pitch deep to get Missouri on the board. That was the only hit Klein allowed in three dominating innings as he shut the door with his eighth strikeout.
With the win, Louisiana moved to 2-0 in the four-team pool and due to the two 1-1 teams facing off with each other in the final pool play game, the team is guaranteed a spot in one of the two semifinal games on Monday on ESPNU.
“It feels awesome,” Cook said. “This is what we have been working for all year.”
"I think we're rolling right now and feeling really confident,” Lorio added. “I think we're playing our best baseball right now."
Louisiana plays in the same timeslot on Saturday against 0-2 Albuquerque, N.M., Post 13. On Sunday, Missouri and Danville, Ill., Post 210 square off at 1 p.m., in a must-win contest for both teams.
It took nearly 40 years for Vietnam War veteran Charlotte Wilson to join The American Legion after leaving the U.S. Army in 1980. But doing so – and becoming an American Legion Rider in the process – has made a difference for Wilson.
A member of American Legion Post 347 in Lady Lake, Fla., Wilson has become fully immersed in the Legion Riders, taking on multiple offices within a chapter that is just three years old but already boasts more than 100 members. She serves as the chapter’s secretary, road captain and membership secretary.
“It has been a healing process for me,” Wilson said of being a Legion Rider. “I have met some really great people. I am a passionate rider. Meeting other brothers and sisters and becoming a part of this, it’s just exciting.”
Lady Lake Post 347 will serve as the starting point Aug. 18 for the 2019 American Legion Legacy Run. Two days earlier, Wilson and other ride participants gathered 11 miles southeast of the post at Gator Harley-Davidson for a bike night put on by the dealership.
Wilson is taking part in her first Legacy Run. “It’s just a privilege and an honor to participate in this,” she said. “And leaving from our post – the largest post in the world – is overwhelming. And some of the Riders I’ve been meeting as they come in … from Alaska, Nebraska, Michigan, California, it’s just amazing how much that this ride to help the children of our fallen veterans, and post-9/11 veterans and their children is so important to us. I’m so stoked about doing this ride.”
At Gator Harley-Davidson, the Riders could purchase hamburgers, cheesesteaks and pulled pork, as well browse the large selection of gear and motorcycles, and get their motorcycles serviced. The night also included a 50-50 drawing, with money going from the drawing to The American Legion Legacy Scholarship Fund.
For Jan Wideman, Gator’s marketing manager and event planner, talking about the Legacy Run’s mission brings her to tears. She knows about that mission first-hand, as treasurer for nearby American Legion Mount Dora Auxiliary Unit 35 and a member of Post 35’s Riders chapter.
“It’s very emotional,” Wideman explained. “I’ve had a lot of dear friends who have been killed in action, leaving families behind. It’s really cool that we can have all these folks come in from all over … to support that scholarship fund.”
Wideman’s father retired from the U.S. Marine Corps after serving in both the Korean and Vietnam wars, while her husband Jim is a Navy veteran and past commander of Post 35. “(Serving veterans) is very passionate for me,” Wideman said, noting that mission extends to her employer. “We are very veteran-friendly here. John Malik, our owner, believes we really should honor our veterans. It’s very passionate for me to do this for (the Riders).”
During the American Legion World Series in Shelby, N.C., Friday, the annual All-Academic Team was announced. The team is sponsored by Diamond Sports, a leading manufacturer in baseball merchandise and the official baseball used during Legion national tournaments.
In order for a player to be eligible, he or she must be nominated by his or her post-affiliated team manager or head coach to the department baseball committee. Each department's baseball committee has reviewed submitted applications and selected an overall state winner to receive a $500 scholarship.
The state winners have been reviewed by the World Series Scholarship Committee comprised of Legionnaires and academic representatives.
Each player on the team receives a $2,500 scholarship. An overall top academic player is named the team captain and awarded a $5,000 scholarship.
The presentation was made by Vice Chairman of the Committee on Youth Education James Davis of West Virginia.
The winners are:
2019 All-Academic Team Captain - Kenshawn Dixon, from Kingston, N.C., Post 49
Northeast – Addison Kopack, from Cumberland, R.I., Post 14
Mid-Atlantic – Jonathan Milton, from Wheeling, W.V., Post 1
Southeast – Trevor Mays, from Bristol, Conn., Post 2
Mid-South – Logan Catton, from Bryant, Ark., Post 298
Great Lakes – Samuel Pinkert, from Rockport, Ind., Post 254
Central Plains – Nickolas Kemper, from Sioux Falls, S.D., Post 15
Northwest – Michael Soper, from Salem, Ore., Post 136
Western – Jack Gallagher, from Petaluma, Calif., Post 78
Danville, Ill., Post 210 rebounded from a loss on Thursday to even its record by topping Albuquerque, N.M., Post 13 on Friday.
Danville capitalized on mistakes and took free bases to earn the 13-2 win.
The first five Danville batters reached base with a pair of walks and a pair of close plays at first resulting in errors made the game 1-0. Logan Spicer ripped a single off the mound and into centerfield to bring home two. After a sacrifice bunt, Lucas Hofer hit a single and brought home one, but Seth Casias and Javier Almager gunned out the trailing runner at the plate. A few more free bases led to another run being forced when Ernest Plummer was hit by a pitch. Plummer, who walked later in the game, reached base in 15 consecutive plate appearances dating back to regionals before that streak ended in the fifth.
Albuquerque got two back in the bottom of the frame when Damien Roddy hit a double and Benito Garcia hit a homer to left to make it 5-2.
Those were the last runs that Ryan Drayer would allow as the right-hander would allow as he went the distance for Danville, allowing just the pair of runs on six hits.
“I just calmed down and tried to hit my spots and hit the corners and my offspeed was working,” Drayer said.
In the third, Drayer got some insurance from Jake Stipp, who pulled a ball got over the right field wall for a solo shot.
In the fifth, Danville added again to their lead. After loading the bases Chase Rademacher was a few feet away from a grand slam but settled for a sacrifice fly and Chase Vinson followed with an RBI single. Danville added two more on an error.
Kotah Broeker drove in two more in the seventh and came around on an error to make the final margin 13-2 after six innings per the American Legion Baseball 10-run rule.
“Today it was a completely different team,” Broeker said. “The energy was so much different in the dugout today. Our dugout has helped us win many games this season. It is amazing to be here. It is a great experience and being the first Post 210 to win a game here is even bigger.”
“It’s awesome to be in Shelby. I am really proud of my teammates and everything we’ve been able to do to get here,” Drayer said.
With the win, Danville moves to 1-1 in the Stripes pool, while Albuquerque fell to 0-2.
Albuquerque, which is the first team to ever make the American Legion World Series from the state of New Mexico, will hope to get in the win column on Saturday night against Louisiana at 7:30 p.m. Danville will face Missouri on Sunday at 1 p.m., in their pool play finale.
The top two teams in each of the four-team pools will advance to the semifinals on Monday.
At Kings Mountain, N.C., Post 155 Friday morning, the American Legion post was full with dignitaries and American Legion World Series participants.
For the second year, Post 155 hosted a gathering allowing the eight ALWS teams to hear from a Medal of Honor recipient and the national commander of The American Legion.
This year’s guest, Hal Fritz, received the Medal of Honor for his acts of bravery during an ambush in the Vietnam War.
He started by discussing the word “hero” and saying, “When comforted with danger they affect that danger positively. Every man and woman in here who has served in the U.S. military is a hero because they faced situations like that and they embraced it and they saved lives. It’s not just something a Medal of Honor displays, every veteran that has served has displayed that courage and that valor.”
A 50-year member of Post 24 in Wisconsin, Fritz was very positive about his time with The American Legion.
“The American Legion is comprised of individuals who care deeply about this country and the future of this country. The American Legion is involved in many programs for the youth of this country. It provides a guidepost, it provides mentorship and it provides the incentive, and a kick in the pants sometimes, to remind the youth that freedom isn’t free.”
He also added some encouragement for the players as they go through the World Series and continue on into adulthood, saying, “It wasn’t just me who received the Medal of Honor, it was the team of soldiers I had with me. And when you’re out on that field, it’s not just you, it’s the team together that makes a difference. And I saw that when I watched you play yesterday. That’s what you want to maintain. Bring that attitude to everything you do and you will be great.
Opening remarks came from National Commander Brett Reistad, who also addressed the players on the field Thursday.
“We are particularly proud of our youth programs and our Americanism programs. The one thing that these programs do for us is that it brings us into contact with people like yourselves and we have the opportunity to spend time with boys and girls of your caliber and it gives us reason to believe that there are people out there who will continue to make our country a great country. We are looking forward to your generation becoming leaders. That’s why The American Legion likes to instill in these programs things like good citizenship and sportsmanship.”
Other distinguished guests included past national commanders of The American Legion, the National Adjutant Daniel Wheeler, Kings Mountain Mayor Scott Neisler and North Carolina Department Commander James Moore.
Mayor Neisler presented both with keys to the city, as well.
In a World Series filled with mostly newcomers to Shelby, the two teams with recent experience in Shelby squared off under the lights to conclude the first day of play.
Randolph Co., N.C., Post 45, in the World Series for the third straight year, battled to an 8-4 win over Shrewsbury, Mass., Post 397 in its second World Series in three years with no returners from the 2017.
Small ball was the theme of the day as both teams worked counts, were aggressive on the basepaths and took advantage of mistakes.
After the leadoff batter popped out, Randolph got three straight singles from Trevor Marsh, Spencer Lanier and Austin Curry to score the first run of the game.
In the bottom of the frame, Shrewsbury got two men on and John West grounded out to the right side to bring home TJ Morgera, who stole third to set up the opportunity.
In the top of the second Braxton Davis hit a 1-0 pitch over the left field fence to retake the lead for a rare power display in the contest.
“I took the first pitch because it was kind of quick and I was late on it, Davis said. “The second pitch I decided to speed up a bit, got my hands through it and hit it well.”
Shrewsbury leveled again on a wild pitch in the fourth inning which brought home John West.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, Shrewsbury once again was busy on the bases and Morgera was at the heart of it again, walking then stealing second and third with one out. His aggressiveness paid off as he scored on an RBI groundout again by West, giving Massachusetts a 3-2 lead despite having only one hit.
In the sixth, Randolph County used some small ball as well, to great success.
The North Carolina team started the inning with two walks and loading the bases on a sacrifice bunt attempt which Shrewsbury couldn’t find an out on.
Randolph brought home six runs in the next six batters on a walk, wild pitch, fielders choice, double by Trevor Marsh, walk and wild pitch.
“I got behind in the count so I choked up on the bat and stepped in and just put the bat on the ball and he supplied all the power,” said Marsh, one of three players in his third American Legion World Series for Randolph County. “This year I came back more confident and relaxed. It’s always fun to be here with my teammates in front of a big crowd.”
Morgera scored again in the seventh on another fielders choice, but the Shrewsbury late rally was thwarted.
Davis is another three-year member of this Randolph team and he added, “It’s a great feeling. It is so cool to play in front of all these fans. It is so cool.”
Massachusetts next plays at 1 p.m., on Saturday against Idaho. North Carolina will play again immediately following on Saturday at 4 p.m., against North Dakota.