Minneota won’t field Sr. Legion team this summer due to numbers crunch
For the first time in many years, Minneota will not have an American Legion baseball team this summer because of a numbers crunch.
The Junior Legion Vultures, which can include those who will be seniors next fall, will field a team this summer.
The Legion team had only three seniors that were eligible and moving many of the Junior Legion players up would deplete that squad and force eighth graders to play against more experienced juniors on opposing teams.
Keven Larson, who coaches the high school varsity and also the Senior Legion team, and J.D. Pesch, the assistant varsity and Jr. Legion coach, discussed the situation and felt this was the best option for the players.
"We wanted to have the kids play together that will be on varsity next year, rather than splitting them up," said Jr. Legion coach J.D. Pesch, who is also the assistant high school coach.
The three seniors that won't be able to play with the Legion team this summer are Jonah Gruenes, Jayden Gamrak and Tyler Gronke.
"Jack Lacek was a player were concerned about," said Pesch. "He will be a senior next year but because of his age he is not eligible for Junior Legion. But we actually talked with the league that we are in and they agreed to allow Jack to play in the league games, just not the playoffs."
"We feel bad for those three," said Pesch. "But we talked to them and they understood."
Some of the younger players that were on the high school varsity team this spring also felt playing on the Junior Legion team might be a step down.
"I told them that a lot of the other teams will be playing juniors," said Pesch. "I also have tried to schedule some tougher opponents and we are in the Perham tournament which has some bigger schools playing in it."
Keeping all the players together on the Junior Legion team will benefit the high school team next spring, too.
"We have done everything we could to plan for this group to play together this summer in preparation for next spring," Pesch noted.
The Vultures, who opened the season Monday at home against Lamberton, have several bigger schools on their schedule this summer, including Marshall, Luverne, Pipestone and Worthington.
"We are typically an undersized (small town) competing against much bigger towns," Pesch explained. "The larger towns usually have 4-6 starters who will be seniors next year. We will have three. So, we are still undersized but will be more competitive."
Canby, Lakeview and Dawson-Boyd have not had Senior Legion teams for the past few year because they ran into the same numbers problem that Minneota has encountered.
"We have been holding out own, but we have had two classes in a row with three players in each class," said Pesch. "Any time a small town has two consecutive years with low numbers, it affects the team."
Minneota's numbers should increase in the next year or two and it will likely be able to field a Senior Legion team again.
"Every year we will evaluate and determine what is best for the program," Pesch said.