American Legion Post 283
Visit to children's home proves rewarding
The Pickerington American Legion Post 283 baseball team's education has not been limited to the playing field this summer.
The players visited West Virginia Children's Home last month when they were in Elkins, W.Va., to compete in the Hillbilly Hardball Classic, and they came away with the realization that some things clearly overshadow their accomplishments on the field.
"That experience far surpassed anything we did baseball-wise down there," coach Chris Weber said. "Basically, these were kids age 12 to 18 years old who for various reasons -- be it parental abuse or sexual abuse or truancy -- ended up there.
"It really was the greatest experience I've had as coach of this team for seven years, and I think it left quite an impression on our kids, too.
"When we got there, they were all a little nervous and didn't really know what to expect. We gave them a bunch a balls and bats and spent a lot of time with them. The time thing, that really was priceless to them.
"And before the weekend was over, they had T-shirts and signs made up wishing us luck. It was really neat. They really got behind us. They were probably more disappointed when we lost than our kids were. We took it pretty well, but it left some of the kids from the home in tears."
Post 283 won five of its six games in the tournament, which was held June 14-17, but it placed third after a 5-4 loss to Columbia (Md.) Post 300 in a semifinal.
That was only Pickerington's second loss through 32 games.
Post 283, which lost 4-3 to Portsmouth Post 23 in the second game of a doubleheader on June 10, rallied after the setback to Post 300 to win its next nine games, six of which were en route to capturing the title in the Dick Keuhn Wood-Bat Classic from June 22-24 in Cincinnati.
Pickerington defeated Worthington 5-0 in the championship game as starting pitcher Tony Winters and closer Rob Sexton combined on a one-hitter.
Post 283 beat Logan Post 78 19-0 on June 26 to improve to 30-2 overall and 8-0 in District 8.
Pickerington played in the Lancaster Post 11 Classic, which was June 29 through July 3. Post 283 will play Thursday, July 5, at Dresden Post 399 before opening a stretch of five games at Watkins Memorial High School by playing Hillsboro Post 129 on Friday, July 6. That game will be followed by doubleheaders against Gallipolis Post 27 on Saturday, July 7, and Piqua Post 184 on Sunday, July 8. Pickerington also plays Tuesday, July 10, at Utica Post 92 and the Licking County Athletics on Wednesday, July 11, at a site to be determined.
According to Weber, quality pitching has helped carry Post 283 and the offensive standouts have included Devon Fisk, Jacob Horsley, Mason McGrew, Joe Matalon and Kyle Smith. Fisk hit the only home run in the Cincinnati tournament, and McGrew had two homers during the West Virginia tournament. Weber also noted how well Shane Snyder has done filling in for injured catcher Evan Jensen.
"Since we lost to Columbia, we've kind of been on a roll," Weber said. "We played very well in Cincinnati, and I think the visit to the children's home has at least something to do with that. The kids just seem to have a greater appreciation for what they have."