Orphaned Legion baseball team became travelling road show
The American Legion Post 38 under-17 baseball team found itself a team without a league as the summer began.
Concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the American Legion to cancel its summer baseball season. Wait until next year, right?
Only the team did not want to wait until next year. It wanted to play baseball. And it found a sponsor with the Putty Hill rec council.
A sponsor, but not a home field. The now-Putty Hill under-17 team spent the summer as a travelling road show, competing in tournament in Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
The team finished the summer with a 19-10 record and finished second in tournaments in Gettysburg and Frederick.
It was also the culmination of a four-year journey for some of the coaches and players.
“We started [in 2017] to play ball at a higher level,” said Edgemere resident Tony Ranocchia, one of the coaches. “We’ve played between six-toeight tournaments a year.”
The team joined American
Legion ball and Post 38 for the 2019 season. As they were about to enter the Legion tournament, it was discovered some players on their roster were ineligible.
(American Legion Baseball has rules concerning which schools each Post can get players from, and the size of eligible schools. Also, most leagues use the player’s age as of May 1; Legion ball uses the calendar year. So, some Putty Hill layers were too old, and others went to schools too large.)
“We concentrated on entering open tournaments the rest of the summer and made three championship games,” Ranocchia said.
(Incidentally, full disclosure: Tony and I are the same age, grew up together in Colgate, and have known each other since our first kindergarten class at Colgate. We played
Colgate rec ball together — he was a star, I was the guy who played right field the last two innings and batted once.
I must constantly remind him of this when he asks me to join the over-40 baseball league.)
The team went 17-10 in 2017, 20-8 in 2018 and 19-10 in 2019. Along the way, the team reached 10 tournament championship games and won four: in Ellicott City, Columbia, York and Olney.
The team has three players from Sparrows Point — Bryce Ranocchia, Kolin Francis, Anthony Mihavetz — and one from Eastern Tech (Connor Ignatz).
(Francis, being 18, could not play under-17 ball this summer. But he joined the squad when it entered under-18 tournaments.)
The quartet has been with the team all four years — as well three of their fathers: manager Rob Mihavetz and coach Ranocchia and Drew Ignatz.
“We’ve played in all top tier tournaments,” Rob Mihavetz said. “Perfect Game, Elite Baseball, Future Stars, Past Time, Diamond Nation and USSSA, and have had great success in all of them.
“Bryce, Anthony, Connor and Logan Lesperance have been our top four pitchers over all four seasons.”
Over those four years, the team played only three games that could be considered home games — for Post 38 last summer.
They were 5-3 in Junior Legion ball before having to drop out.
As mentioned earlier, there was the ... inconvenience of a current pandemic this summer.
“That caused a lot of concern,” Tony said. “Our first four tournaments were cancelled due to the pandemic, and we decided against competing in a tournament in New York.
“It was July 21 ... New York was really bad around then.”
The tournaments cancelled were mainly under-17 tournaments. So Putty Hill opted to play “Over its Head” and enter some under-18 tournaments.
Either way, not the cancellation of its league or a virus kept this team from playing baseball all summer.
But they annoying thing is — there were precious few sports for me to cover this summer. And one of them spent all its time playing far from Dundalk.
The former Post 38 Jt. American Legion team joined Putty Hill after the American Legion cancelled its baseball season.