June 25, 2007

Delano Legion Post 377 Baseball

By Cullen Schultz
Staff Writer

The American Legion has been sponsoring youth baseball since 1925 in hopes of building team discipline, individual character, and leadership skills, and in Delano, they are doing just that.

The Delano Legion Post 377 baseball team has been going strong for years, and in 2007, it is off to a good start.

The team started the season 4-2, and is undefeated in league play, going 4-0.

The team is managed by long-time manager Dick Amundson, and has been coached the past three seasons by Adam Jaunich and Tim Dien.

“Tim and I do it for the love of the game,” Co-Head Coach Adam Jaunich said.

The team receives its funding through player fees, but mostly by generous donations made by the Delano American Legion and the Knights of Columbus. Without the generosity from these two organizations, the baseball team wouldn’t exist.

“It gives the kids an opportunity to play baseball during the summer, and represent their American Legion,” Jaunich said.

Post 377 doesn’t have tryouts to make the team, and has a roster of 16 players, with two 2007 graduates, Zach Fisher and Eric Sandberg, and 14 underclassmen, making them one of the younger teams in the league.

“A lot of the teams have numerous graduates (2006) that come back from college and play,” Jaunich said.

The team has played well so far this year, by playing their style of baseball – “small ball.” They are utilizing their team strengths, bunting and running, to put the ball in play in order to put pressure on the opposing teams to make plays.

“We do the little things to win games,” Jaunich said.

A weakness for the squad so far this season has been errors, which has contributed to their losses this season. The one thing Jaunich stressed was that they must shore up their defense as the year goes on, in order to advance in the playoffs.

“We are giving up a lot of unearned runs,” Jaunich said.

Post 377 plays its league games in the Wright County League, which is made up of teams from the surrounding area, including Annandale, Dassel-Cokato, Howard Lake, Maple Lake, Montrose, Mound, Orono, Rogers, and St. Michael.

“It is pretty competitive,” Jaunich said.

They play each team in their league once during the regular season, and they also scheduled non- league games against bigger towns such as Hopkins and Wayzata in order to prepare for post season play.

“We schedule those games to get ready for the playoffs,” Jaunich said.

Post 377 kicks off its playoffs with an end-of-the-year tournament with seven of their fellow league members who are also in Tier 1, the highest level of Legion baseball. Howard Lake and Maple Lake will not be in their playoffs because they are in a lower level, Tier 2.

Depending on the standings at the end of the regular season, the teams are seeded and play a best two-out- of-three series, with the winners moving on to the district tournament.

“The first round of the league playoffs is a best two-out-of-three series; after that it is single games for seeding,” Jaunich said.

Four teams from the Wright County League then move on to the District 10 Legion Baseball Tournament.

The District 10 tournament brings four leagues together – North Hennepin, North End, South End, and Wright County, and the teams battle it out for a state tournament birth.

“There are 16 teams in the district tournament,” Jaunich said.

The district tournament, which is as far as Post 377 has ever advanced, brings in some of the best teams in the state of Minnesota, such as perennial power Eden Prairie, which has won the state tournament each of the past three years.

“It is probably the toughest district in the state,” Jaunich said.

The district tournament is a four- day tournament, and the teams are placed into four pools, with four teams in each. The teams play a round robin format with the two teams having the best record in each pool moving on to the next round of the district tournament. The eight teams remaining face off, with the winners all moving on to the state tournament.

“The way it is set up gives us a better opportunity to advance,” Jaunich said.

If the teams that advance from the district should win the state tournament, they would advance to a regional, and if they win, have a shot to play in the national tournament in Oklahoma.

Playoffs are coming up quickly for the team, but before they start, they must finish up the rest of their 13-game regular season schedule, along with a Fourth of July tournament, which they are hosting.

The 2007 Delano 4th of July Legion Baseball Tournament will begin Saturday, June 30, and will go through Wednesday, July 4.

The tournament will consist of a winner and loser bracket, guaranteeing each team will get to play three games, with trophies being awarded for first, second, third, and consolation champions.

As of now, the tournament will be hosting five teams, but they are still looking for a sixth team to participate. The teams in this year’s tournament will include Annandale, Delano, GFW, Hudson Wis., and Oakdale.

“Last year was a huge success, and it is just such a fun atmosphere,” Jaunich said.

The future looks bright for Post 377, they have been making strides in the right direction the past three years, winning the Wright County League in 2005, placing third in the 2006 Delano Fourth of July Legion Baseball Tournament, and by making the district tournament the past two seasons.

The past is past, but one thing is for sure, with the players’ great attitudes toward the game and the fast start, Post 377 is looking to continue its winning ways right into the playoffs.

“The kids like to have fun, and they love baseball,” Jaunich said.

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