American Legion’s popularity swamps budget

Eninitas, CA

The revival has turned into a rebirth.
Hoping for four teams and willing to settle for two in trying to revive American Legion summer baseball in San Diego, organizers say the idea has grown to 15 teams from around the county.
“I’m blown away,” said Peter-Rolf Ohnstad, baseball commissioner for the Legion’s local District 22.
“We were in the embryonic stage, now we have a full-grown child.”
There is a problem, though.
There are more teams than American Legion posts willing to sponsor teams.
Ohnstad — a decorated Navy pilot who flew missions in Vietnam, Desert Storm and Haiti and is an adjunct professor at the Maritime Institute of Technology — promised no player would be charged to play this summer.
He plans to keep that promise.
“But we need help,” Ohnstad said. “We need donors to step up, sponsors. We need guys who played American Legion ball to make donations.
“We need members of The American Legion. We need baseball fans, corporate sponsors to see our vision.
“We need donations — large or small — to make this go.
“I’ll fund it myself if I have to because I made a promise. But I’m hoping for some help.”
The Legion has already paid the registration fees to the state for all 15 teams at a cost of about $6,500. Ohnstad also promised uniforms for 18 players per team, balls, umpires and insurance coverage.
“I’m not saying we don’t want travel-ball players, but we want kids who can’t afford to pay for travel ball.
“We want to give as many players as possible a chance to play this summer.”
Teams committed to play are Madison, Ramona, Helix, La Jolla Country Day, Chula Vista, Sweetwater, Mater Dei Catholic, Patrick Henry, Santa Fe Christian, Santana, Coronado, Monte Vista, West Hills, Escondido and an independent team.
Rosters are limited to 18 players, ages 14-19.
While most teams are affiliated with high schools, Ohnstad said there is room for players from other schools to hook onto rosters.
“The American Legion has done a fantastic job putting this together,” said Madison coach Robert Lovato.
“They knew there was a need for summer baseball in San Diego, but they didn’t anticipate this kind of response.
“I hope people will step up and help.”
Helix coach Cole Holland said he may use some travel-ball players on his team, but wants to use the summer to develop players who need a chance to play.
“If we can get kids 25-40 at-bats this summer, get pitchers 15-20 innings, this would be a great success,” Holland said.
“You get better by playing and the Legion is giving kids the opportunity to play.”
Schedules are still being drawn up, but teams will play a minimum of 14 games, probably on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5 p.m., starting about June 10 and ending around July 12.
There will be a double-elimination postseason tournament with the winner — and perhaps the runner-up — advancing to Southern California playoffs.
Ohnstad said it will cost about $5,000 per team to run the league.
Do the math and that’s $75,000.
The first person to donate was former San Diego Section Commissioner Dennis Ackerman, who gave $500 in honor of his father, Allen, who was an instrumental figure in American Legion ball in Southern California.
“We have 15 teams and eight others showed interest, but just couldn’t get it together before we needed a commitment,” Ohnstad said.
“Obviously, there is interest here.
“Now, donations are critical.”

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