Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

League Losing Players, Number of Teams Going Down

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

League Losing Players, Number of Teams Going Down

Article excerpt

It's not well known, but historically more major league baseball players have come from Pennsylvania than any other state outside of California.

Yet when it comes to developing players, in recent years American Legion baseball has lost more and more teams in the state.

According to the American Legion website, legion.org, there were 340 American Legion baseball teams in Pennsylvania in 2012. This year, there were 297.

West Mifflin, which won the local Region 6 championship in 2014, did not field a team this year. Neither did Springdale, which won a state championship two generations ago in 1972.

Furthermore, many times teams playing locally have had to forfeit games or, in the case of Swissvale, fail to complete its season due to a lack of players.

"Travel ball is hurting us a lot," said Norm Kraus, the president of the Beaver County Division of Region 6. "The summer AAU leagues, the Youngstown B League, that's cost us. Put the three of us together, and these kids pay a lot of money to play travel ball and these coaches make ridiculous comments to them on how much exposure they'll get."

Beaver County bucked the trend in Pennsylvania by adding two teams this season to give them 10 and is even talking about adding an 11th for 2016. The division actually went out of the county to include Zelienople this season, which wanted to play in a league affiliated with the national American Legion program and the Butler County Legion is not.

It's the belief of the local American Legion coaches and administrators that their brand of baseball offers advantages that playing on travel teams does not. Playing with high school teammates will make a player's prep team stronger, for instance. Costs are significantly lower than travel baseball, wooden bats are used, and there is the sense of identity one gets for playing for a local team.

"This is my first year as regional director, and we're making big strides to bring American Legion back. I don't feel American Legion is going down, I actually think it is coming back," said Ron Popovich, the Region 6 director.

Popovich wants to give Region 6, which is comprised of the 31 teams that participated this year in Allegheny, Beaver and Fayette counties, an online presence, something that currently is not available save for the palegionball. …

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