A fan’s view of the American Legion Baseball State Tournament
By Mike Powell
CHERRYVILLE —Some random thoughts on the 2019 North Carolina American Legion baseball tournament from the perspective of a fan rather than a reporter. It was the first time in nearly four decades that I have witnessed the Legion playoffs from the bleachers and not the press box with a deadline to contemplate.
— The tournament seemed to be a success on every level, including the financial. In an informal conversation with some fans on Monday night, Cherryville Post 100 coach Bobby Reynolds said the tournament was in the red, but it would take time to get a complete financial accounting. Cherryville’s run to the semifinal round assured big crowds on four of the tournament’s five days.
— Such fan considerations as parking, food service and seating appeared to run smoothly. The First Baptist Church parking lot at the corner of Pink and First Streets handled most of the traffic issues, and there was parking available in another lot on First Street and also by shuttle at First Methodist Church on Pink. A Legion official offered me a lift to the stadium by golf cart Monday afternoon. I declined, preferring to walk, but it was a nice gesture.
— Although the tournament got a nice break in the weather for the first couple of days, fans had to appreciate the presence of tents on some of the bleacher sections at Fraley Field. But while there was protection from the merciless sun, there was nowhere to hide from the yellow jackets that buzzed around any food or drink product with sugar content. One fan sitting near me warned, “They seem to like Pepsis the best.” I managed one sip from my can of the soft drink before the invasion commenced.
— One odd development unfolded Monday afternoon, but I wonder if anyone noticed. According to reports from press box officials, the Fuquay-Varina coaching staff objected to the playing of music over the loudspeakers prior to and during inning breaks in the semifinal matchup against Randolph County. The team got its wish.
— The theme of the tournament was Wilmington Post 10’s dominance, and no wonder. According to reports, Post 10 boasted a roster that included six players with college level experience, along with a sprinkling of stars from New Hanover’s state 3A championship club.
— Post 100 came to life during their team’s spirited comeback from deficits of 8-0, 10-3 and 14-5 in Monday’s semifinal against Wilmington. The seven-run seventh inning, highlighted by Wes Reynolds’ 3-run homer, closing the gap to 14-12, was the highlight of the tournament for this observer.
— What a way for Wes Reynolds to go out in his final appearance in front of Legion fans at Fraley Field. And don’t forget, the East Rutherford High product had the dramatic walk-off grand slam to beat the Gaston Braves 12-8 in extra innings for the Area IV championship.
— Lincolnton product Robbie Cowie also bowed out of eligibility with some memorable moments, including his clutch relief appearance in Saturday’s tense 1-0 win over Union County. Cowie was a shutdown pitcher in the late innings throughout the playoffs, and he hit a solo home run in his next-to-last at-bat against Wilmington on Monday.
— Another player who will be missed is catcher Levi Kiser, a steady defensive force behind the plate for Post 100 throughout his career. He ages out, as will utility player Zane Beaver. The good news? Everyone else is eligible to return in 2020.