Has baseball become Baldwin’s lost sport?
"Woo Hoo, we won two games in a row," said a Baldwin Legion player after their win against Lansing in this past weekend's tournament.
Although the comment was full of sarcasm, the reality of it is sad but true.
This year's Legion highlight was two wins in a row, last year's highlight was two wins for the first time ever in the zone tournament, and the year before was the first place finish in a season tournament. Yet, none of those teams were able to celebrate winning records. None had records close to .500.
Interest in baseball for kids in Baldwin just dies once a player gets past junior high. It isn't that there aren't any good baseball players, because there is a considerable amount of talent on every Legion team. In the past few years there have probably been more baseball players from Baldwin offered college scholarships than in any other sport. The problem is that they aren't playing in Baldwin.
It is just that we lose talent because some kids and parents feel that they don't "get the exposure," or have the opportunity to improve by continuing their career Baldwin.
Going into high school, baseball was my favorite sport and I also played on a traveling team with kids from the area. I wasn't exactly thinking, "must get exposure." I was only 15. I just felt I could learn more on the traveling team.
So each year the team has done the best with what they've had. The year that I played we had kids starting that hadn't played baseball in four or five years, and decided that it would be fun to play again. This year's team was a young team with only three 18 year olds that stuck with it all three years. Two of those players, Jason Rose and Adam Guss, have been awarded with scholarships to play baseball in college.
Well, a lot of people would suggest starting a high school program, but I'm not sure that is the answer. Baseball and Class 4A just don't mix very well. The size of the student body just can't handle another sport. The rest of the sports in the spring just become diluted, and less competitive.
I think the real solution would be consistency in the Legion program.
How about a coach that stays on for more than two years?
It is like Baldwin High School coach Bobby Taul used to say to us in basketball. "We might not win every game this year, but we are starting the building blocks for a winning tradition." Two years later, the program earned a state trophy.
Chris Rose has done what he could this year, but he has no assistant coach, this is his first year coaching, and his biggest critics have been the fans (mostly parents, who complain to their kids and then the kids lose respect for their coach because of the parents).
Probably at this moment somebody is thinking about trying to find a way to raise funds to start a high school program. Stop right there. How about you find a way to raise funds for a Legion program. The funds could be used to hire an assistant coach, promote the games to get fans out, and for maintenance on the field which becomes a swamp with .0003 of an inch of rain.
Maybe it takes a little more effort to get out and help than to sit and complain about the team. But, if more people don't try to help, baseball will continue to be Baldwin's lost sport.
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