The 2018 Ohio American Legion Baseball State Tournament kicked-off tonight at the First Pitch Banquet. The banquet is where the 8 legion teams from across the state which qualified for the tournament meet to mutually celebrate their accomplishments and to reflect on the opportunity to play American Legion Baseball.
Immediately, it is recognizable that this banquet is not like typical sports banquets. The First Pitch Banquet is opened with prayer that gives thanks for the opportunity to meet, to get to play ball, and asks the Lord for blessings for the kids, the teams, the leaders, our service men and women, and for our country. Everyone recites the Pledge of Allegiance. All the players recite the American Legion Baseball Code of Conduct, something that is also done before each tournament game.
The banquet, hosted by the Lancaster First Methodist Church at the Cross Roads Activity Center, is also attended by community leaders, including Ohio State Highway Patrol Lieutenant Shad Caplinger, Lancaster Post Commander, and Trooper Patrick White, 2017 Trooper of the Year.
Again, it is not like typical sports banquets. It is recognizable that this banquet is tied to something larger than sports.
As the banquet was starting, I had a chance to walk around the tables and talk with this year’s teams. The kids are big, strong and athletic. They are wide-eyed and excited. I asked a simple question: “What are you most looking forward to this week?” Their answers varied:
“…the apple pie at the table.”
“…the state championship ring.”
Regardless of the answer, it was clear that all the kids were excited and ready to play!
This year’s teams, with their respective records, include:
Game play starts Wednesday, 7/24 at 10AM and concludes with the championship game on Sunday, 7/29, 1PM.
The banquet was led by Marv Schamhart, Commissioner of Ohio American Legion Baseball, with keynote speaker Coach John Cannizzaro. Coach Cannizzaro was inducted to the Ohio High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2016. As a heralded coach of Newark Catholic’s Green Wave, he led the team to titles in 1988, ’89, ’02, ’03, ’04, ’06, ’13, ’15, and ’16.
During his speech at the banquet, he commented on the mental aspects of baseball and that the game has room for failure, and successful ball players overcome failure before the next pitch.
Coach Cannizzaro also said, “Mental toughness is the key to overcoming life challenges.” He made the point that baseball is a great opportunity to develop mental toughness. He also noted, “You play for your teammates, not mom or dad or bother or sister, but you play for your teammates. If you’re not in the game, find a way to contribute to your team’s success, whether it’s catching a bullpen, figuring out patterns of the opposing pitcher, or trying to pick signs. Play for your team.”
Coach Cannizzaro also had a very successful record when playing at Beavers Field – 22-3. He gave away his secret for winning at Beavers Field: “Tell your team you’ll take them to Phyliss’ Home Plate and buy them a Phyliss Burger. You can’t find a better burger.”
Coach also noted his affinity for American Legion Baseball, saying, “Everyone is on the same page. There is structure and discipline involved. American Legion Baseball is the best organization for summer baseball.”
Again, I’ll say, The First Pitch Banquet is not like typical sports banquets. It is tied to something larger than sports. It is tied to competition, camaraderie, and Americanism. It is tied to American Legion Baseball.
Van Wert Post 178; 20-7
Lancaster Post 11; 21-12
Pemberville Post 183; 34-14
Jefferson Co Post 33; 23-19
Sandusky Post 83; 17-11
Beverly Lowell Post 389/750; 33-8
Utica Post 92; 18-7
Circleville Post 134; 30-9