One final celebration for State champion legion squad

By on August 16, 2017

 

Ephrata Chryslers’ players and coaches await the start of Sunday’s celebration held at the Ephrata American Legion. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

Fourteen members of the State Champion Post 429 American Legion baseball team sat on the stage of the Ephrata American Legion ballroom at 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. It was an opportunity for the players and coaches to give back to their sponsor, friends, family and members of the Ephrata community.

On full display were the Department Champion (Department of Pennsylvania) and 2017 Regional Runner-up banners captured over the last two weeks of post season baseball.

Three large trophies covered one of the tables, waiting to be presented to Post 429 Commander Hugo Vargas.

“We are very honored and proud to be associated with these fine young men,” explained Vargas, as he opened the ceremony. “It was great seeing the support of the community.”

Before turning over the microphone to head coach Derek Sipe, the Commander put a dig in about future expectations.

“We’re going to have to make room for these trophies, and the ones they will win in the future,” Vargas quipped.

The largest piece of hardware was the trophy awarded to Ephrata for winning the state title while being the first Lancaster County squad to host the State Tournament from July 24th through the 29th at Ephrata War Memorial Field. That championship was also the first for any Lancaster County team.

The Mid-Atlantic finalist trophy was also an impressive piece, another first time award for a Lancaster County club. The third has become a fixture under Sipe. It was the District 10 (Lancaster County) championship trophy, captured for the sixth time in his seven years at the helm.

“All of that work made it worthwhile,” started Sipe, in reflecting on the week of the State Tournament. “It was a great week, and something we’ll all remember for a number of reasons.”

The skipper then introduced the 14 players, beginning with State Tournament MVP and outstanding pitcher Dillon Good. Each one in turn picked a winning door-prize ticket. The prizes included tee-shirts, hats, autographed items and Reading Phillies tickets.

Sipe also announced a $950 donation to the Wounded Warrior Project, which represented 50 percent of the ticket proceeds from Veterans Day at the State Tournament. He concluded his remarks by putting the relationship in perspective.

“It’s a veteran’s organization that just happens to let us play baseball,” Sipe said.

Ephrata American Legion Commander Hugo Vargas addresses the crowd during Sunday’s celebration honoring the State Champion Ephrata Post 429 legion team. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

Following the formal presentation those in attendance were invited to chat with the players and coaches, taking pictures with the trophies and banners. During that time, 2016 Ephrata grads Good and Evan Frees offered their perspectives on the team’s recently-completed run.

“The main thing that stands out to me is, whether we were down or up, we were always having fun with each other,” started Frees, adding that they never got mad when someone made a mistake. “I think that’s what really made us successful as a team. We would flush away the negatives and go right to the positives.”

“It’s been an awesome summer,” added Good. “The four years in high school, getting to win a League Championship and District Three Title. Then coming to Legion ball and getting to win a State Championship. I’ve had a great time these past five years.”

Even Sipe had a chance to talk about what made this team so special.

“I knew from the beginning that they were an individually talented bunch,” he said. “As the summer went on, we became talented as a team and just hard to beat. We fell into roles and got along really well. They are a special group to watch as a baseball team, but outside of that, just as a group of young men, they’re fun to be around.”

Frees concurred when he was asked about getting to know the coaches.

“I think the relationship with our coaches is one of a kind, compared to other teams that we played,” he said. “At the hotel (in Virginia), Coach Sipe joined the conversations and it wasn’t just baseball. He connected with us on other subjects.”

Good also noted a pleasant surprise from one of the coaches while in Virginia.

“Coach (Ryan) Crowther was a lot of fun, especially when he opened up with us,” Good said. “He’s usually a pretty quiet guy, but we got to know him better.”

Another success that the team experienced at the State Tournament was a financial one.

“I was hoping (to raise) around $7-to-$8,000,” said Sipe after explaining the $11,000 take just from admissions over the tournament. “Obviously it helped that we kept winning and played the night games. Each game that we had, it seemed that the crowd kept growing and growing.”

“We ended up splitting the money with the state, but we’re going to profit for ourselves right around $15,000,” added Sipe. “We’ll be able to set aside amounts for future tournaments. We’ll be able to buy some shirts and championship jackets for the current players. Some of those funds will go back into the Ephrata Baseball Association, so younger teams and younger players will benefit as well.”

The Legion also profited during the week of the State Tournament.

“There definitely was an uptick,” explained Vargas. “On Friday, we had the most people we’ve ever had. We had to turn people away, unfortunately. We didn’t have enough food or enough space.”

As to the future?

“I’m going to make sure that I come out and support the legion teams that are going to play in a couple of years when I’m not,” offered Frees. “I hope I can say, ‘We were here. I hope you guys get here.’”

“I even talked to Derek a little bit about coaching,” added Good. “I don’t know what my schedule will look like next summer, but if I could come back and get to be with these guys another year, that would be great.”

“We’re going to be a lot closer,” said Vargas. “My goal is to get the community more involved. In the baseball team and in the legion as well.”

Sipe capped the conversation with a look at even bigger and better things.

“After a couple of days down there (Virginia), the Mid-Atlantics were asking us to host it at some point in the future. Now that we’ve done something at this stage, we know that we’re capable of doing it. It’s just a matter of placing the bids and bringing it here. I think we have the capability of being the premier location for legion baseball in the Mid-Atlantic Region, both at the State level and the Mid-Atlantic Region level.”

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