For nearly a half a century, the American Legion state baseball tournament has been played in Athens. After a unanimous and independent vote by the seven members of the American Legion's state baseball commission last month, the event will move to Lancaster.

For nearly a half a century, the American Legion state baseball tournament has been played in Athens. After a unanimous and independent vote by the seven members of the American Legion's state baseball commission last month, the event will move to Lancaster.

"A decision like this is difficult, and it wasn't made hastily," said Gerald White, Ohio's American Legion state baseball tournament director. "This has been going on almost five months. An item-by-time comparison of things in Athens and things in Lancaster were prepared by my office and mailed out to the seven members of the American Legion state baseball commission."

By the end of January, White had all the votes returned and it became officiall that the state tournament will not be in Athens. Except for a five-year hiatus in the early '70s, the state tournament has been held in Athens since 1960.

"There were some problems the state baseball commission experienced with Ohio University over the past few years," White said. "The baseball committee felt those problems would not or probably could not be addressed."

White would not comment on the specific problems but did stress there was no displeasure with the city of Athens, the Athens Chamber of Commerce, the Athens Convention Visitor's Bureau, the Athens school corporation, the Alexander school corporation or other agencies and individuals that assisted with the tournament.

"I heard there were some rumblings with OU," said Pickerington Post 283 coach Chris Weber, whose team has made the tounrnament the last two seasons and five times in the last decade. "One of the bad things, we'd go to OU and it's a nice field and a nice complex, but if there was a passing shower (Ohio coach Joe) Carbone would shut it down. What was supposed to be 10 games were maybe four or five."

Athens' loss was Lancaster's gain. Tournament games will be featured at Al Beavers field as well as the fields at Lancaster and Fisher Catholic high schools. All three locations are within a half-mile of each other.
"
Al Beavers Field is one of the finest baseball facilities in central Ohio and the state of Ohio," White said. "Al Beavers, Lancaster American Legion Post 11 and the city of Lancaster have a good track record in American Legion baseball circles. We are keeping the state tournament centralized and we feel that by moving the tournament to Lancaster we are saving several thousands of dollars in the cost of the tournament."

Beavers has coached American Legion baseball in Lancaster for 28 years and is still manager of the junior and senior teams. Beavers estimated at least 150 games are played on his field from April to mid-October.

"It's an honor for the city of Lancaster to be able to host the state tournament," Beavers said. "And, to have my field recognized as a quality field and a good place to play the state tournament makes me very proud."

This season's state tournament will feature 23 games from July 26-30. Last season, Sandusky Post 83 beat Napoleon Post 300 10-0 in the final.

"We think it's some of the finest youth baseball in existence today," White said. "In Cooperstown, N.Y. at the Baseball Hall of Fame, 55 players enshrined there played American Legion baseball in their careers."