It’s ‘go time’ for State Legion Tournament preparation

By on December 7, 2016
Ephrata’s American Legion team hoists the District 10 League trophy last summer. Next summer, they will host the State Legion Tournament at War Memorial Field.

Ephrata’s American Legion team hoists the District 10 League trophy last summer. Next summer, they will host the State Legion Tournament at War Memorial Field.

As reported in this publication in July, the Ephrata Legion baseball team will host the 2017 State Legion Tournament next summer. Preparations for this tremendous undertaking have now begun for the July 25-29 competition and the Post 429 squad will soon need your help.

“When we hosted the Region IV Tournament in 2015, States wasn’t even on our radar,” said Ephrata manager Derek Sipe, from his second grade classroom at Reamstown Elementary School. “We weren’t even considering it, but the Legion officials said we need to get States here.”

This will be the first time Ephrata or any Lancaster County team will host the State Legion event, in large part due to the upgrades to the War Memorial Field. Ephrata is the only Lancaster County team (1990) that advanced to the Legion National tournament. The Chryslers have also represented District 10 (Lancaster County) in the last six Region Four Tourneys.

“The thing that you will notice as soon as you come, is that the whole field is turfed,” described Sipe. “That’s a game changer for this type of tournament. It eliminates weather delays. If we get a downpour, we’re back out there playing again 15 minutes after it ends.”

“They’ve re-done the dugouts into a beautiful area,” added Sipe. “The backstop matches, the bathrooms are the best of any amateur field and the scoreboard is major league level. For many of these kids, it’s the best field they’ll play on in their lives. Every team that we bring in is just amazed by it. To have it here as our home field in Ephrata is special.”

A group of 12 met two weeks ago to start the planning process for hosting such a large event.

“The more people that we have on the same page, the more hands involved this early in the game, the better tournament we can run,” added Sipe. “The first thing we talked about in our meeting was to make people aware that this is happening, and how much expense we will have as a result.”

A total of $35,000 is needed, half of which will come from the state through registration fees from across the Commonwealth.

“Our big focus right now is working on the program,” noted Sipe. “We need to solicit advertising and sponsorships through local businesses for the program. When the New Year begins, we’ll send a flyer out, then begin face-to-face contacts. We’ll let them know what the options are and how they can help.”

A second initial task is to find a facility for the July 24 banquet that will hold as many as 350 people.

“We’ve put together a small committee to focus on a place,” said Sipe. “What Boyertown did (2016 State Tournament) was have the banquet at a church, clearing out the seating and bringing in tables. The Ephrata Legion is not quite big enough. It would be awesome to have it there as the tournament represents them as much as it represents us.”

Sipe also spent two and a half days at this year’s Boyertown Tournament, taking notes on details plus how many volunteers are needed and where they are placed.

“The state officials run a double-header format, at least for the first two days,” described Sipe. “We’ll need 12-15 people for each double-header. Two each for admissions, T-shirt and program sales, field maintenance and ball-boys to chase foul balls. We’ll also need an announcer, score keeper and music coordinator.”

The first two days of the tournament will begin at 9 a.m. and continue until approximately 10 p.m. After that, the times and the field are reduced as teams are knocked out of the double elimination format. With the War Memorial Association handling the bulk of the snack bar duties, there may also be a need for volunteers to supplement their staff.

Anyone interested in helping with the program, advertising solicitation or game day positions can contact Derek Sipe at dsipe18@gmail.com.

Expenses for the tournament include, but are not limited to stipends for food and lodging for teams, coaches, Legion officials and umpires traveling more than 60 miles. The banquet and umpire fees also add to the bottom line.

“We’ll make up a lot of money afterwards from admissions, snack bar and 50-50 raffles,” added Sipe. “Any extra money that is raised goes to our team and kids that will play legion baseball for years to come.”

Legion baseball in Ephrata has a unique history of quality and quantity of play, going back 30 years or more.

“The biggest positive that you see in our program is the number of games that we’re playing,” added Sipe. “We’re trying to bring more and more baseball to Ephrata. We want them to be looked at by college coaches. We’ve already had several kids that have benefited from that.”

Since the 16-19 year olds representing Post 429 get an automatic entry into the tournament, the question is, how they will compete?

“I know they are excited, and why shouldn’t they be,” explained Sipe. “We have 12 (players) that come back from last year. We lose a little bit of pitching, but our lineup should be very solid from one through nine.”

“We have the facility and we have the players and I think we have people that are excited to be bringing this type of tournament to Ephrata,” summed up Sipe. “I’m hopeful that we’re able to do well with it. Something we can look into bringing back.”

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