On Thursday, American Legion baseball completed its cancellation of its season for the entire summer.
For many teams, they rely on American Legion baseball to get its players prepared for the varsity level, facing teams and players with experience.
Two players who parlayed their American Legion success into prominent roles on their school’s respective varsity teams were Teutopolis’ Trenton Schwerdt and Mitch Hemmen.
“I was playing with some players who were already varsity starters, so I kind of followed their lead,” Schwerdt said. “I think it helped teammate chemistry, playing with the same guys through the summer. We got to know each other’s tendencies on the field.”
“Playing with your teammates you’re going to play with alone helps you,” Hemmen said. “Other teams have a lot of kids that are going to be on varsity teams, so you can see how they play and how they are. Every time you play, you get better.”
For teams like Teutopolis who play baseball in the fall as well, there’s not much time away from baseball, going right from state playoffs to legion ball in a matter of days until mid to late July and then back at it for the fall season in August.
“I love playing baseball, I’d play every day if I could,” Schwerdt said. “There’s really no time for your arm to get tired or anything. I feel like during those months there’s different difficulties you face. The spring schedule is a bit more challenging than the fall. When we get to the summer, we always have the mindset to win.”
“Just to be able to play for a T-town organization, it helps you for when you get to the varsity spot and know what to expect from T-town programs,” Hemmen said. “Playing that many games gives you a lot of playing time. Being able to play that much and getting that much experience it gives you more experience and makes you better. You really have to stress arm care because you are throwing that long.”
However, not all towns have had a legion team in years past, including Dieterich.
For Dieterich junior Matthew Hunzinger, he will still play for the Decatur Commodores after playing for them last season as well. Hemmen and Schwerdt both played for the Commodores last summer as well.
While the state of Illinois is slowly starting to open back up, many of the Commodores games and tournaments that were slated to take place in Illinois have been cancelled. However, the Commodores still plan to take part in some tournaments out of state, including a tournament in Cincinnati as well as one at Southeast Missouri State.
“We have certain guidelines we have to follow while we’re there,” Hunzinger said. “We have to wear masks in the dugout, the umpire will be behind the mound so three people aren’t behind the plate huddled near each other.
“I’m in the same boat as a lot of kids. We’ve been waiting all winter and spring preparing to get in shape and in the blink of an eye it’s all gone. I’m just happy we can get the opportunity and be able to get on the field and see some game action.”
For Hunzinger, he’s looking forward to being able to put a Dieterich uniform on again when fall baseball rolls around and the Maroons start their quest toward a National Trail Conference championship.
“Hopefully we can be able to play. It’s crazy how something that far away is still possibly up in the air,” Hunzinger said.
In the meantime, Hunzinger has been doing what he can do stay ready.
“As much as the weather allows me, I’ll go out to the high school field, play catch and maybe take some batting practice,” Hunzinger said. “If the weather is nice my father and I will go up to the field, play catch and maintain that physical shape that will allow you to succeed.”