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LEGION BASEBALL: Park River revives team after five year hiatus

PARK RIVER, N.D. -- Jay Thompson last put away the baseball gear at the end of an American Legion season in 2007. Since then, there hasn't been enough interest here to field a team.

PARK RIVER, N.D. -- Jay Thompson last put away the baseball gear at the end of an American Legion season in 2007. Since then, there hasn't been enough interest here to field a team.

But the hope was always that there would be a Legion baseball revival.

"If it went on too long without a team, we knew there were doubts that we'd be able to get it going again,'' Thompson said. "But every year we tried.

"We always felt we'd get the numbers back. There are a lot of baseball guys in Park River. Every year, the Legion guys were asking if we had the numbers to have a team again. We never gave up on it. Finally, this year, we had the numbers to go with it.''

It took a late surge, but summer baseball is back.


Park River has a 15-player roster, the majority of whom are still in the age 15-and-under Babe Ruth and playing at both levels.

It wasn't until less than two weeks before teams began playing that Park River decided it had enough athletes to field a Legion team.

"We had sign-ups at school for the team,'' Thompson said. "We ran ads in the local newspaper about having a team. We had a sign-up day at the park, and only two or three Legion-age kids showed up. I thought this would never go.

"But then the kids and some parents started calling. We saw we had the kids, so we got the ball rolling.''

With the late start, Park River began the season playing catch-up. Other teams had full schedules when Park River was just starting to find games. Park River currently has an 18-game schedule and Thompson still is looking for more games. Umpires had to be found.

But at least there are players.

Eight play Babe Ruth as well as Legion ball. Four Legion-age players - Zach Gaarder, Jesse Blasky, Ben Thompson and Nathan Iverson - have the experience of playing high school baseball this spring. Three others - Andrew Hylden, Zach Nelson and Jordan Brummond - didn't even play in high school.

"We had 10 or 11 kids that last year (in 2007),'' Jay Thompson said. "The most I ever had on the roster before was 14. Numbers weren't a problem, though, because the kids we had were usually there for games.''


How successful Park River can be this season remains to be seen. In its first nine games, it has two wins.

"It can be tough when we're going against teams like Grafton and Nelson County, programs that have been successful,'' Jay Thompson said. "It's tough to play with those high-end teams. But I think there are plenty of other programs that run into that same problem.

"For us, it's still a learning process. I think we'll be competitive. We have a lot of good athletes. And the success they've had in other sports carries over. They know how to work hard; they know how to win.''

The key will be developing pitching. Ben Thompson has mound experience from high school. Nelson and Blasky, a hard thrower, show promise.

But Jay Thompson said success won't be measured by wins and losses. It will be about progress with a team that has only one player, Brummond, in his final season of eligibility.

"We could take our lumps,'' the Park River coach said. "It's been a lot of work getting things going. But the big thing was getting the ball rolling. Next year, we know we'll have a team. We're getting the program going with a solid foundation of young kids.''

DeVillers reports on sports. Reach him at (701) 780-1128; (800) 477-6572, ext. 128; or send e-mail to gdevillers@gfherald.com .

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