Or­phaned Le­gion base­ball team be­came trav­el­ling road show

The Dundalk Eagle - - SPORTS AND RECREATION - by Bill Gates

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.

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